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Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 6

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2017-05-10 19:14:36 (6 comments; 2 reshares; 3 +1s; )Open 

> ... a number of methods have converged on the estimate that every human child contains roughly 100 new mutations—genetic changes that were not present in their parents. To be sure, many of these occur in inert regions, or are otherwise “silent” and so do no harm. But a few are very harmful individually; and although the remainder are individually small in effect, collectively they plague each individual with debilitating infirmities. [...]

> If a species is not to melt down under the hard rain of accumulating mutations, the rate at which harmful mutations are introduced must equal the rate at which selection removes them (mutation-selection balance). [...] For a balance to exist between mutation and selection, a critical number of offspring must die before reproduction—die because they carry an excess load of mutations. [...] Most ancestral humans were fated by physics to bechildle... more »

Most reshares: 5

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2017-04-30 12:26:31 (1 comments; 5 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

> There's something going on inside the intelligence communities in at least two countries, and we have no idea what it is. [...] One: someone, probably a country's intelligence organization, is dumping massive amounts of cyberattack tools belonging to the NSA onto the Internet. Two: someone else, or maybe the same someone, is doing the same thing to the CIA.

> Three: in March, NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett described how the NSA penetrated the computer networks of a Russian intelligence agency and was able to monitor them as they attacked the U.S. State Department in 2014. Even more explicitly, a U.S. ally—my guess is the U.K.—was not only hacking the Russian intelligence agency's computers, but also the surveillance cameras inside their building. "They [the U.S. ally] monitored the [Russian] hackers as they maneuvered inside the U.S. systems and as they walkedin ... more »

Most plusones: 13

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2017-05-14 17:11:54 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 13 +1s; )Open 

> There is something similar going on in numerous films and television series. The phenomenon has been called “universe-shrinking”. What happens is that the characters in a science-fiction or thriller franchise are initially sent off on adventures in the wider world. James Bond goes after Goldfinger, Doctor Who defends the Earth against the Daleks, and so on. But after a while that world grows smaller and smaller until there is nothing in it which isn’t connected to the protagonists.

> The most famous example of this phenomenon pre-dates the current trend by four decades. George Lucas’s “Star Wars” saga introduced a hero, Luke Skywalker, who was a farm boy from the back of beyond. There was a great big galaxy out there that had nothing do with him – and that was what made the film so magical. The message was that even a lowly peasant from the middle of nowhere could rescue abeautiful pri... more »

Latest 50 posts

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2017-05-27 08:19:19 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )Open 

> Generally, intentional communities fail at a rate slightly higher than that of most start-ups. Only a handful of communities founded in the US during the 19th century’s ‘golden age of communities’ lasted beyond a century; most folded in a matter of months. This golden age birthed more than 100 experimental communities, with more than 100,000 members [...]

> Interestingly, attrition rates for intentional communities are not all that different from many other types of human endeavour. The failure rate for start-ups is around 90 per cent, and the longevity of most companies is dismal: of the Fortune 500 companies listed in 1955, more than 88 per cent are gone; meanwhile, S&P companies have an average lifespan of just 15 years. Can we really expect more longevity from experimental communities? And if not, what can we learn from an audit of these experiments? What have been the keyfacto... more »

> Generally, intentional communities fail at a rate slightly higher than that of most start-ups. Only a handful of communities founded in the US during the 19th century’s ‘golden age of communities’ lasted beyond a century; most folded in a matter of months. This golden age birthed more than 100 experimental communities, with more than 100,000 members [...]

> Interestingly, attrition rates for intentional communities are not all that different from many other types of human endeavour. The failure rate for start-ups is around 90 per cent, and the longevity of most companies is dismal: of the Fortune 500 companies listed in 1955, more than 88 per cent are gone; meanwhile, S&P companies have an average lifespan of just 15 years. Can we really expect more longevity from experimental communities? And if not, what can we learn from an audit of these experiments? What have been the key factors undermining communitarian living?

> Perhaps the irony is that many of the administrative and managerial forces that individuals are running away from within mainstream society are exactly the organisational tools that would make intentional communities more resilient: that regardless of how much intentional communities with utopian aims seek to step to one side of worldly affairs, they succeed or fail for the very same pragmatic reasons that other human enterprises – notably businesses and start-ups – succeed or fail.___

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2017-05-27 08:16:33 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 0 +1s; )Open 

Huh. It's obvious now that it's pointed out, but I hadn't consciously realized that the actual geography of a subway is going to be somewhat different from the way it's depicted on the subway maps.

Huh. It's obvious now that it's pointed out, but I hadn't consciously realized that the actual geography of a subway is going to be somewhat different from the way it's depicted on the subway maps.___

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2017-05-26 18:38:50 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

> Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and language use by others. People can be called out for statements and actions that are sexist, racist, ableist, and the list goes on. Because call-outs tend to be public, they can enable a particularly armchair and academic brand of activism: one in which the act of calling out is seen as an end in itself.

> What makes call-out culture so toxic is not necessarily its frequency so much as the nature and performance of the call-out itself. Especially in online venues like Twitter and Facebook, calling someone out isn’t just a private interaction between two individuals: it’s a public performance where people can demonstrate their wit or how pure their politics are. Indeed, sometimes it can feel like the performanceits... more »

> Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and language use by others. People can be called out for statements and actions that are sexist, racist, ableist, and the list goes on. Because call-outs tend to be public, they can enable a particularly armchair and academic brand of activism: one in which the act of calling out is seen as an end in itself.

> What makes call-out culture so toxic is not necessarily its frequency so much as the nature and performance of the call-out itself. Especially in online venues like Twitter and Facebook, calling someone out isn’t just a private interaction between two individuals: it’s a public performance where people can demonstrate their wit or how pure their politics are. Indeed, sometimes it can feel like the performance itself is more significant than the content of the call-out. [...]

> ... when people are reduced to their identities of privilege (as white, cisgender, male, etc.) and mocked as such, it means we’re treating each other as if our individual social locations stand in for the total systems those parts of our identities represent. Individuals become synonymous with systems of oppression, and this can turn systemic analysis into moral judgment. Too often, when it comes to being called out, narrow definitions of a person’s identity count for everything.___

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2017-05-26 18:03:50 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 0 +1s; )Open 

Commiting to a partner for a year and a day at a time, if you don't feel like you want to get married (yet, or ever), but also want some more explicit longer-term commitment. I like that idea.

> ... the claim here is that most social progress can be modeled as a pendulum oscillating decreasingly far from an ideal. The society is "stuck" at one point, realizes that there's something wrong about that point (e.g. that maybe we shouldn't be forcing people to live out their entire lives in marriages that they entered into with imperfect information when they were like sixteen), and then moves to correct that specific problem, often breaking some other Chesterton's fence in the process.

> For example, my experience leads me to put a lot of confidence behind the claim that we've traded "a lot of people trapped in marriages that are net bad for... more »

Commiting to a partner for a year and a day at a time, if you don't feel like you want to get married (yet, or ever), but also want some more explicit longer-term commitment. I like that idea.

> ... the claim here is that most social progress can be modeled as a pendulum oscillating decreasingly far from an ideal. The society is "stuck" at one point, realizes that there's something wrong about that point (e.g. that maybe we shouldn't be forcing people to live out their entire lives in marriages that they entered into with imperfect information when they were like sixteen), and then moves to correct that specific problem, often breaking some other Chesterton's fence in the process.

> For example, my experience leads me to put a lot of confidence behind the claim that we've traded "a lot of people trapped in marriages that are net bad for them" for "a lot of people who never reap the benefits of what would've been a strongly net-positive marriage, because it ended too easily too early on." The latter problem is clearly smaller, and is probably a better problem to have as an individual, but it's nevertheless clear (to me, anyway) that the loosening of the absoluteness of marriage had negative effects in addition to its positive ones.

> Proposed solution: Rather than choosing between absolutes, integrate. For example, I have two close colleagues/allies who share millennials' default skepticism of lifelong marriage, but they also are skeptical that a commitment-free lifestyle is costlessly good. So they've decided to do handfasting, in which they're fully committed for a year and a day at a time, and there's a known period of time for asking the question "should we stick together for another round?"

> In this way, I posit, you can get the strengths of the old socially evolved norm which stood the test of time, while also avoiding the majority of its known failure modes. Sort of like building a gate into the Chesterton's fence, instead of knocking it down—do the old thing in time-boxed iterations with regular strategic check-ins, rather than assuming you can invent a new thing from whole cloth.

> Caveat/skull: Of course, the assumption here is that the Old Way Of Doing Things is not a slippery slope trap, and that you can in fact avoid the failure modes simply by trying. And there are plenty of examples of that not working, which is why Taking Time-Boxed Experiments And Strategic Check-Ins Seriously is a must. In particular, when attempting to strike such a balance, all parties must have common knowledge agreement about which side of the ideal to err toward (e.g. innocents in prison, or guilty parties walking free?).___

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2017-05-26 17:48:30 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

> [Outrage is] a common reaction just about any time a journalistic account of evil people or evil acts includes nuance and texture. Back in 2013, for example, some people were furious at Rolling Stone for running a cover image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in which the Boston Marathon bomber looked like… well, a normal kid. A handsome one, even. Some of the critics accused Rolling Stone of giving him the “rock star” treatment.

> This “you’re normalizing evil!” critique didn’t make sense then, and it doesn’t make sense now. It’s good to normalize evil, in the sense of showing how otherwise “normal” people and institutions can perpetrate evil acts, and every attempt should be made to do so. That’s how you prevent more evil from happening in the future. [...]

> If the long-term goal is to understand past evil and prevent future evil, it’s entirelycounterproductive to clai... more »

> [Outrage is] a common reaction just about any time a journalistic account of evil people or evil acts includes nuance and texture. Back in 2013, for example, some people were furious at Rolling Stone for running a cover image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in which the Boston Marathon bomber looked like… well, a normal kid. A handsome one, even. Some of the critics accused Rolling Stone of giving him the “rock star” treatment.

> This “you’re normalizing evil!” critique didn’t make sense then, and it doesn’t make sense now. It’s good to normalize evil, in the sense of showing how otherwise “normal” people and institutions can perpetrate evil acts, and every attempt should be made to do so. That’s how you prevent more evil from happening in the future. [...]

> If the long-term goal is to understand past evil and prevent future evil, it’s entirely counterproductive to claim that attempts to understand the inner workings of evil normalize or excuse it. What’s the alternative? Should the totality of our engagement with a story like Tizon’s be to shake our fists at the moral outrage? Where does that get us? Why can’t we recognize that what happened was evil and try to understand the complicated social and cultural dynamics — the justifications and rationalizations and self-delusion — that led to it in the first place? Pointing out that cancer is a really, really deadly disease doesn’t get you any closer to curing it: studying the ways in which cell division can run rampant does.___

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2017-05-26 13:52:55 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

I wouldn't have expected this: in Victorian London, there were seven deliveries of mail per day, collected every two hours. If you sent somebody a letter, you could have gotten back a response on the same day.

I wouldn't have expected this: in Victorian London, there were seven deliveries of mail per day, collected every two hours. If you sent somebody a letter, you could have gotten back a response on the same day.___

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2017-05-26 11:57:07 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 0 +1s; )Open 

> Researchers believe that two paths can lead to psychopathy: one dominated by nature, the other by nurture. [...] ... other children display callous and unemotional traits even though they are raised by loving parents in safe neighborhoods. Large studies in the United Kingdom and elsewhere have found that this early-onset condition is highly hereditary, hardwired in the brain—and especially difficult to treat. [...] Still, researchers stress that a callous child—even one who was born that way—is not automatically destined for psychopathy. [...]

> ... many psychopathic adults and callous children do not recognize fear or distress in other people’s faces. [...] Abigail Marsh, a researcher at Georgetown University who has studied the brains of callous and unemotional children, says that distress cues, such as fearful or sad expressions, signal submission and conciliation. “They’redesigned to... more »

___> Researchers believe that two paths can lead to psychopathy: one dominated by nature, the other by nurture. [...] ... other children display callous and unemotional traits even though they are raised by loving parents in safe neighborhoods. Large studies in the United Kingdom and elsewhere have found that this early-onset condition is highly hereditary, hardwired in the brain—and especially difficult to treat. [...] Still, researchers stress that a callous child—even one who was born that way—is not automatically destined for psychopathy. [...]

> ... many psychopathic adults and callous children do not recognize fear or distress in other people’s faces. [...] Abigail Marsh, a researcher at Georgetown University who has studied the brains of callous and unemotional children, says that distress cues, such as fearful or sad expressions, signal submission and conciliation. “They’re designed to prevent attacks by raising the white flag. And so if you’re not sensitive to these cues, you’re much more likely to attack somebody whom other people would refrain from attacking.” [...] Faulty brakes may help explain why psychopaths commit brutal crimes: Their brains ignore cues about danger or punishment. [...]

> ... the program at Mendota [an institution devoted to helping psychopathic youths] has changed the trajectory for many young men, at least in the short term. Caldwell and Van Rybroek have tracked the public records of 248 juvenile delinquents after their release. One hundred forty-seven of them had been in a juvenile-corrections facility, and 101 of them—the harder, more psychopathic cases—had received treatment at Mendota. In the four and a half years since their release, the Mendota boys have been far less likely to reoffend (64 percent versus 97 percent), and far less likely to commit a violent crime (36 percent versus 60 percent). Most striking, the ordinary delinquents have killed 16 people since their release. The boys from Mendota? Not one. [...]

> No one believes that Mendota graduates will develop true empathy or a heartfelt moral conscience. “They may not go from the Joker in The Dark Knight to Mister Rogers,” Caldwell tells me, laughing. But they can develop a cognitive moral conscience, an intellectual awareness that life will be more rewarding if they play by the rules. “We’re just happy if they stay on this side of the law,” Van Rybroek says. “In our world, that’s huge.” [...]

> “These kids can’t help it,” Adrian Raine says. “Kids don’t grow up wanting to be psychopaths or serial killers. They grow up wanting to become baseball players or great football stars. It’s not a choice.”

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2017-05-24 16:56:39 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )Open 

Snerk

Snerk___

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2017-05-22 18:26:15 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

> There’s a lot of deluded people who have partners who legitimately do not give a shit. And those people are endlessly convinced that their partner is a bank vault, just packed with love if only they can find the right tutorial to pick the locks, and they are endlessly blaming themselves because they somehow didn’t unlatch the great wellspring of tenderness that lies within them.

> There’s not an approach that’ll help there.

> And these people will point to their partner’s sporadic kindnesses as though these isolated incidents are a treasure map leading to the great stockpile of sympathy. But the truth is, almost everybody’s nice occasionally, if only by coincidence. Sometimes these unreachable partners want to make love when you do, but that’s not proof that they’re good to you, it’s proof that occasionally disparate agendas can line up like an opticalillusion of kindn... more »

> There’s a lot of deluded people who have partners who legitimately do not give a shit. And those people are endlessly convinced that their partner is a bank vault, just packed with love if only they can find the right tutorial to pick the locks, and they are endlessly blaming themselves because they somehow didn’t unlatch the great wellspring of tenderness that lies within them.

> There’s not an approach that’ll help there.

> And these people will point to their partner’s sporadic kindnesses as though these isolated incidents are a treasure map leading to the great stockpile of sympathy. But the truth is, almost everybody’s nice occasionally, if only by coincidence. Sometimes these unreachable partners want to make love when you do, but that’s not proof that they’re good to you, it’s proof that occasionally disparate agendas can line up like an optical illusion of kindness.

> So the first part of establishing any real communication is ensuring that your partner actually gives a shit about you personally. Do they react with concern or exasperation the first time you raise an issue? Do they look for ways to write you off as a nut because it’s more convenient to them? Do they have a history of dropping partners whenever they prove troublesome?

> Because yeah, you can – and should – work on presenting your problems in a kind, nonconfrontational way. But chefs work on great food presentation, and even they realize it won’t make a full man hungry. ___

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2017-05-22 08:06:57 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )Open 

> Before Britain invented the mercantile system in the 15th century, the management and appraisal of time was on a much more personal scale. The agrarian economy meant small towns exchanged goods and services in sync with the seasons and were subject to the limitations of hyperlocal resources. Time and productivity ebbed and flowed according to a natural rhythm.

> But with mercantilism, one of the first major economic theories, how a person spent his or her time directly corresponded with the wealth of the entire country. According to economists of the time, any form of waking idleness lost a country money — and was declared a grave sin. The time between seasons and harvests, the time between anything at all, if not spent at work, was simply and suddenly a waste. [...] The theory of mercantilism was that if the poor population was allowed to grow in numbers but its wages kept low, itwould... more »

> Before Britain invented the mercantile system in the 15th century, the management and appraisal of time was on a much more personal scale. The agrarian economy meant small towns exchanged goods and services in sync with the seasons and were subject to the limitations of hyperlocal resources. Time and productivity ebbed and flowed according to a natural rhythm.

> But with mercantilism, one of the first major economic theories, how a person spent his or her time directly corresponded with the wealth of the entire country. According to economists of the time, any form of waking idleness lost a country money — and was declared a grave sin. The time between seasons and harvests, the time between anything at all, if not spent at work, was simply and suddenly a waste. [...] The theory of mercantilism was that if the poor population was allowed to grow in numbers but its wages kept low, it would have no time for consumption of either material resources or time, both of which were reserved for the wealthy. Meanwhile, the country itself would grow richer.

> The mercantile system justified its approach as a way to help the poor “live better.” Not only did Britain insist that “suffering was therapeutic” for the poor, who would otherwise naturally devolve into laziness and sloth, but also that higher wages would lead to vice, drunkenness, and impropriety (in other words, unsanctioned free time). [...] By creating this intense anxiety around time, Western mercantilist nations insisted time could be shamefully misspent and necessarily harm one’s homeland. [...]

> During one French parliamentary meeting in 1576, the nobility, merchants, and clergy banded together to urge the matter of forced labor. The latter contended that “no idle person…be allowed or tolerated.” Nobles demanded that “sturdy beggars and idlers” be whipped if they refused to work. [...]

> Mercantilism eventually faded in the late 18th Century [...] [b]ut the effects of enforced industriousness still linger. [...] “Leisure in a poor man is thought quite a different thing from what it is to a rich man, and goes by a different name,” said British economist Charles Hall in 1805, apparently without irony. “In the poor it is called idleness, the cause of all mischief.” [...]

> The same ideas permeate America today. [...] gigs play on our country’s existing anxieties around leisure, our need to fill time with productive side hustles, whether we “need” the cash or not. Simply looking busy is currency in itself, a way to sidestep the stigma that comes with idleness, especially for the poor and working class.___

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2017-05-22 07:39:07 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 3 +1s; )Open 

Unsurprisingly, Daryl Bem's famous psi paper failed to replicate when tested more rigorously:

> To distinguish this replication from earlier attempts, Bem, Schlitz, and Delorme took extra steps to rule out any possibility of bias. They planned to run the same battery of tests at a dozen different laboratories, and to publish the design of the experiment and its planned analysis ahead of time, so there could be no quibbling over the “garden of forking paths.”

> They presented their results last summer, at the most recent annual meeting of the Parapsychological Association. According to their pre-registered analysis, there was no evidence at all for ESP, nor was there any correlation between the attitudes of the experimenters—whether they were believers or skeptics when it came to psi—and the outcomes of the study. In summary, their large-scale, multisite,pre-reg... more »

Apparently Bem was quite serious.___Unsurprisingly, Daryl Bem's famous psi paper failed to replicate when tested more rigorously:

> To distinguish this replication from earlier attempts, Bem, Schlitz, and Delorme took extra steps to rule out any possibility of bias. They planned to run the same battery of tests at a dozen different laboratories, and to publish the design of the experiment and its planned analysis ahead of time, so there could be no quibbling over the “garden of forking paths.”

> They presented their results last summer, at the most recent annual meeting of the Parapsychological Association. According to their pre-registered analysis, there was no evidence at all for ESP, nor was there any correlation between the attitudes of the experimenters—whether they were believers or skeptics when it came to psi—and the outcomes of the study. In summary, their large-scale, multisite, pre-registered replication ended in a failure.

> In their conference abstract, though, Bem and his co-authors found a way to wring some droplets of confirmation from the data. After adding in a set of new statistical tests, ex post facto, they concluded that the evidence for ESP was indeed “highly significant.” Since then they’ve pre-registered a pair of follow-up experiments to test this new approach. Both of those efforts are in progress; meanwhile, the original attempt has not yet been published in a journal.

> I asked Bem if he’d ever budge on his belief in ESP. What if, for example, pre-registered replications like the one he’d done with Schlitz and Delorme continued to turn up negative results? “If things continue to fail on that one, I’m always willing to update my beliefs,” he said. “But it just seems unlikely. There’s too much literature on all of these experiments … so I doubt you could get me to totally switch religions.”

> “I’m all for rigor,” he continued, “but I prefer other people do it. I see its importance—it’s fun for some people—but I don’t have the patience for it.” It’s been hard for him, he said, to move into a field where the data count for so much. “If you looked at all my past experiments, they were always rhetorical devices. I gathered data to show how my point would be made. I used data as a point of persuasion, and I never really worried about, ‘Will this replicate or will this not?’ ”

2017-05-20 17:17:02 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

Which species are capable of identifying individuals?

> ... it is not clear how many animal species are able to reidentify something as the [same] individual on different occasions, or to think about it as an individual in off-line cognition. An ant can identify something as another ant, and things such as whether it is of the same colony, perhaps its “caste," and states such as carrying home food. But an ant probably cannot tell one individual worker or drone of its own colony from another. More likely, each encounter with another nest mate is for it simply a kind tokening -- “worker ant," “worker ant again.” Mammals and birds, on the other hand, are able to reidentify specific individuals, and this ability seems necessary for identification of mates and offspring and to undergird social cognition for things like dominance hierarchies, at least among the more socialspecies.... more »

Which species are capable of identifying individuals?

> ... it is not clear how many animal species are able to reidentify something as the [same] individual on different occasions, or to think about it as an individual in off-line cognition. An ant can identify something as another ant, and things such as whether it is of the same colony, perhaps its “caste," and states such as carrying home food. But an ant probably cannot tell one individual worker or drone of its own colony from another. More likely, each encounter with another nest mate is for it simply a kind tokening -- “worker ant," “worker ant again.” Mammals and birds, on the other hand, are able to reidentify specific individuals, and this ability seems necessary for identification of mates and offspring and to undergird social cognition for things like dominance hierarchies, at least among the more social species. It is unclear just where in the phylogenetic tree such abilities appear. Perhaps an alligator can see another alligator and remember it as the same alligator it saw a week ago. Or perhaps it just thinks, in effect, ”male alligator bigger than me" on each occasion, not treating the two kind tokenings as presenting the selfsame individual. 

> At least some species seem able to reidentify not only particular conspecifics but particular inanimate objects as well. A dog seems able to recognize a particular toy, for example. And of course many animals are able to identify particular individuals of other species as well--a domestic dog can recognize its favorite human as well as it can recognize other dogs, and evidence suggests that even wild birds can distinguish between different humans they have encountered. I suspect that the ability to reidentify individuals may initially have been an adaptation for social cognition involving conspecifics within social species and is probably one of the key prerequisites for being a social animal. It may be that once this ability is in place, extending it to other things-individuals in other species, inanimate objects-comes for free or at least requires only the perceptual abilities to discriminate whatever cues are needed to distinguish between individuals. (You and I have the requisite cognitive resources to think of separate individuals, but our perceptual abilities are not well suited to distinguishing between particular ants of the same species and caste.) Alternatively, it may be that these require further cognitive abilities that build on foundations originating in social condition. 

> The ability to reidentify specific individuals seems to require a particular kind of cognitive resource: concepts that are namelike rather than generic. Kind concepts (DOG) and property concepts (MALE, SPOTTED) are by nature things that can be applied to multiple individuals. Namelike concepts, by contrast, have the function of picking out and tracking just one thing. This strikes me as likely to be a special kind of concept, one that is not required for having ways of tracking kinds and variable properties, and one that has probably appeared comparatively recently in evolutionary history, though perhaps independently in several widely separated taxa. 

-- Steven Horst: Cognitive Pluralism ___

2017-05-20 13:00:31 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

> Many think of retirement as a vacation, a time when they can golf, spend time at the beach, or travel unburdened by the responsibilities of their younger years. That attitude is certainly understandable. After a busy life of going to school, raising children, and working, it’s natural to want a break. The problem, though, is that this mindset kills meaning. Purpose arises from having something to do. “Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely at rest, without passions, without business, without diversion, without study,” wrote the French philosopher Blaise Pascal in his Pensées. “He then feels his nothingness, his forlornness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness. There will immediately arise from the depth of his heart weariness, gloom, sadness, fretfulness, vexation, despair.” When the elderly believe they still have a part to play in society, though,they mainta... more »

> Many think of retirement as a vacation, a time when they can golf, spend time at the beach, or travel unburdened by the responsibilities of their younger years. That attitude is certainly understandable. After a busy life of going to school, raising children, and working, it’s natural to want a break. The problem, though, is that this mindset kills meaning. Purpose arises from having something to do. “Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely at rest, without passions, without business, without diversion, without study,” wrote the French philosopher Blaise Pascal in his Pensées. “He then feels his nothingness, his forlornness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness. There will immediately arise from the depth of his heart weariness, gloom, sadness, fretfulness, vexation, despair.” When the elderly believe they still have a part to play in society, though, they maintain a strong sense of purpose. 

> Freedman wants to radically reframe retirement from a time of leisure to a time when people use the skills and experiences they’ve accumulated over a lifetime to improve society. Encore creates opportunities for them to do so by matching retirees to organizations that have a social purpose for yearlong fellowships. Former engineer Pam Mulhall, for example, did her Encore Fellowship at an organization called Crossroads for Women in Albuquerque, where she used her technology skills to build a database to help women struggling with addiction and homelessness find housing and jobs. After the fellowship, many fellows move into part- or full-time jobs with their host organizations or find new roles using their skills in the nonprofit sector. 

> In addition to its fellowship program, Encore also maintains a story bank of people who have moved into “encore careers”—and these stories, Encore hopes, will help change our culture’s narrative of retirement and inspire others to adopt new purposes in their later years. Tom Hendershot, whose story is featured on the Encore website, for example, is a retired police officer who now creates dinosaur art and builds exhibitions for museums. People like Mulhall and Hendershot are actively engaged in the “second act” of their lives, as Freedman puts it—and though their second acts can be wildly different from their first, there is usually some connection between their early career and their encore one.

-- Emily Esfahani Smith: The Power of Meaning - Crafting a Life That Matters ___

2017-05-20 11:16:39 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

> Most people have heard about how post-traumatic stress disorder can unravel a person. Fewer have heard about post-traumatic growth [...] these two responses to trauma are not directly opposed to one another or mutually exclusive; someone who experiences one can experience the other, and most people will experience some of the symptoms of PTSD after a trauma, like nightmares or flashbacks, without developing the disorder. But researchers have found that anywhere from half to two-thirds of trauma survivors report post-traumatic growth, while only a small percentage suffer from PTSD. [...] 

> After studying a wide array of survivors, Tedeschi and Calhoun identified five specific ways that people can grow after a crisis. First, their relationships strengthen. One woman diagnosed with breast cancer, for example, said she realized her relationships “are the most important things youhave... more »

> Most people have heard about how post-traumatic stress disorder can unravel a person. Fewer have heard about post-traumatic growth [...] these two responses to trauma are not directly opposed to one another or mutually exclusive; someone who experiences one can experience the other, and most people will experience some of the symptoms of PTSD after a trauma, like nightmares or flashbacks, without developing the disorder. But researchers have found that anywhere from half to two-thirds of trauma survivors report post-traumatic growth, while only a small percentage suffer from PTSD. [...] 

> After studying a wide array of survivors, Tedeschi and Calhoun identified five specific ways that people can grow after a crisis. First, their relationships strengthen. One woman diagnosed with breast cancer, for example, said she realized her relationships “are the most important things you have.” Many people respond to trauma by actively building this pillar of meaning. James, whom we met in the chapter on belonging, turned to his community at the Society for Creative Anachronism for support after struggling with suicidal thoughts. The bereaved parents told Tedeschi and Calhoun that losing a child had made them more compassionate: “I’ve become more empathetic towards anybody in pain and anybody in any kind of grief,” one said.

> Second, they discover new paths and purposes in life. Sometimes, these are related to a particular survivor mission. Tedeschi and Calhoun heard from one person, for example, who became an oncology nurse after losing her child to cancer. Other times, the crisis becomes the catalyst for a more general reconsideration of priorities, as Christine discovered in the aftermath of her mother’s death.

> Third, the trauma allows them to find their inner strength. When Carlos Eire suddenly found himself living in poverty in the United States, he developed survival skills by drawing on a well of tenacity he didn’t know he had. The common thread among those Tedeschi and Calhoun studied is a “vulnerable yet stronger” narrative. That paradoxical outlook defined the attitude of a rape survivor who admitted that the world now seemed more dangerous to her but that, at the same time, she felt more resilient as a result of the inner strength she built after the assault.

> Fourth, their spiritual life deepens. That could mean that their faith in God is renewed, as it was for Carlos, or it could mean that they grapple with existential questions more broadly, coming to know certain deep truths about the world or themselves, as Emeka Nnaka did after his spinal cord injury.

> Finally, they feel a renewed appreciation for life. Rather than taking for granted a stranger’s kindness or the vivid colors of autumn leaves, they savor the small moments of beauty that light up each day. After coming to terms with her terminal diagnosis, Janeen Delaney felt a regular connection to the natural world, which led her to focus on what really mattered to her. “I think I recognize trivial things as trivial now,” said a survivor of an airplane crash. “It reinforced the importance of doing the right thing, not the expedient or politically smart thing, but the right thing.”

> Tedeschi and Calhoun use the metaphor of an earthquake to explain how we grow in the wake of crisis. Just as a city has a certain structure before a major earthquake, so too do we have certain fundamental beliefs about our lives and the world. Trauma shatters those assumptions. But out of the rubble comes an opportunity to rebuild. In the aftermath of an earthquake, cities aim to erect buildings and infrastructure that are stronger and more resilient than what now lies in ruins. Similarly, those who are able to rebuild psychologically, spiritually, and otherwise after a crisis are better equipped to deal with future adversity, and they ultimately lead more meaningful lives.

> Tedeschi and Calhoun wanted to know why some people grow after trauma while others do not. The nature and severity of the trauma, they discovered, was less important than one might think. According to another researcher who has studied post-traumatic growth, “It is not the actual trauma that is causing the change. It is how people interpret what happens, how what they believe about themselves and life and the world gets shaken up, not the trauma itself, that forces people to experience growth.” When Tedeschi and Calhoun probed more deeply into their data, they found that the difference between the two groups lay in what they call “deliberate rumination,” or introspection. The participants whom Tedeschi and Calhoun studied spent a lot of time trying to make sense of their painful experience, reflecting on how the event changed them. Doing so helped them make the life changes associated with post-traumatic growth.

> One way to jump-start the process of deliberate rumination is through writing. Social psychologist James Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin studies how people use language to interpret their experiences. He began his research on trauma in the 1980s. Based on previous work, he knew that individuals who had endured a traumatic event were more depressed and emotionally volatile than those who had not, and that they died of heart disease and cancer at higher rates. But he did not know why trauma would have such negative effects on health.

> Then, one day, he was poring over data when he found an interesting correlation: people who said that they had experienced a major trauma in their childhood but had kept it a secret were significantly more likely to report health problems as adults than those who had spoken to others about the experience. This sparked a question: Would encouraging the secret-keepers to anonymously open up about the event improve their health?

> For the past thirty years, Pennebaker has been trying to answer this question by asking people to come into his lab and spend fifteen minutes each day, for three or four days in a row, writing about “the most upsetting experience in your life.” He encourages his subjects to “really let go and explore your very deepest emotions and thoughts” about the experience and how it has affected them. In the studies he has run, people have written about being raped, being mugged, losing loved ones, and attempting suicide. It’s not uncommon, Pennebaker told me, for research subjects to leave the writing room in tears. 

> Pennebaker has found that those who wrote down their thoughts and feelings about the trauma went to the doctor less often. They also reported better grades after the experiment, displayed fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, registered lower blood pressure and heart rates, and enjoyed better-functioning immune systems. Expressive writing, in other words, is healing. But why was writing about a trauma in this specific way so powerful? 

> When he analyzed the writing of his research subjects across his various studies, Pennebaker found that those in the expressive writing condition didn’t just recount what happened to them during the trauma or use the exercise to blow off steam and vent their emotions. Rather, they were actively working to make sense of what had happened to them—and that search for meaning helped them overcome the traumatic experience both physically and emotionally.

-- Emily Esfahani Smith: The Power of Meaning - Crafting a Life That Matters ___

2017-05-19 08:19:39 (3 comments; 2 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

> In an article published in the Northwestern University Law Review in 2014, Professor Shawn Bayern demonstrated that anyone can confer legal personhood on an autonomous computer algorithm merely by putting it in control of a limited liability company. Bayern’s demonstration coincided with the development of “autonomous” online businesses that operate independently of their human owners — accepting payments in online currencies and performing the off-line aspects of their businesses by contracting with human agents. At about the same time, leading technologists Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking said that they regard human-level artificial intelligence as an existential threat to the human race.

> This Article argues that algorithmic entities — legal entities that have no human controllers — greatly exacerbate the threat of artificial intelligence. Algorithmic entitiesare likely ... more »

> In an article published in the Northwestern University Law Review in 2014, Professor Shawn Bayern demonstrated that anyone can confer legal personhood on an autonomous computer algorithm merely by putting it in control of a limited liability company. Bayern’s demonstration coincided with the development of “autonomous” online businesses that operate independently of their human owners — accepting payments in online currencies and performing the off-line aspects of their businesses by contracting with human agents. At about the same time, leading technologists Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking said that they regard human-level artificial intelligence as an existential threat to the human race.

> This Article argues that algorithmic entities — legal entities that have no human controllers — greatly exacerbate the threat of artificial intelligence. Algorithmic entities are likely to prosper first and most in criminal, terrorist, and other anti-social activities because that is where they have their greatest comparative advantage over human-controlled entities. Control of legal entities will contribute to algorithms’ prosperity by providing them with identities that will enable them to accumulate wealth and participate in commerce.

> Four aspects of corporate law make the human race vulnerable to the threat of algorithmic entities. First, algorithms can lawfully have exclusive control of not just American LLC’s but also a large majority of the entity forms in most countries. Second, entities can change regulatory regimes quickly and easily through migration. Third, governments — particularly in the United States — lack the ability to determine who controls entities they charter and so cannot determine which have non-human controllers. Lastly, corporate charter competition, combined with ease of entity migration, makes it virtually impossible for any government to regulate algorithmic control of entities.___

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2017-05-19 08:09:01 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

Checking How Fact-checkers Check

"I evaluate the performance of two major online fact-checkers, Politfact at Tampa Bay Times and Fact Checker at Washington Post, comparing their interrater reliability using a method that is regularly utilized across the social sciences. I show that fact-checkers rarely fact-check the same statement, and when they do, there is little agreement in their ratings. Approximately, 1 in 10 statements is fact-checked by both fact-checking outlets, and among claims that both outlets check, their factual ratings have a Cohen’s κ of 0.52, an agreement rate much lower than what is acceptable for social scientific coding. The results suggest that difficulties in fact-checking elites’ statements may limit the ability of journalistic fact-checking to hold politicians accountable."

Paper:http... more »

Checking How Fact-checkers Check

"I evaluate the performance of two major online fact-checkers, Politfact at Tampa Bay Times and Fact Checker at Washington Post, comparing their interrater reliability using a method that is regularly utilized across the social sciences. I show that fact-checkers rarely fact-check the same statement, and when they do, there is little agreement in their ratings. Approximately, 1 in 10 statements is fact-checked by both fact-checking outlets, and among claims that both outlets check, their factual ratings have a Cohen’s κ of 0.52, an agreement rate much lower than what is acceptable for social scientific coding. The results suggest that difficulties in fact-checking elites’ statements may limit the ability of journalistic fact-checking to hold politicians accountable."

Paper: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_wUaJ01JSddZTNWVWpkRzVXUzg/view___

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2017-05-15 20:47:00 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

> The nation has spoken: weird pointless $400 wi-fi enabled juicer company Juicero is the perfect symbol of Silicon Valley. [...] I want to take a step back and suggest a reality check.

> While Deadspin was busy calling Silicon Valley “awful nightmare trash parasites”, my girlfriend in Silicon Valley was working for a company developing a structured-light optical engine to manipulate single cells and speed up high-precision biological research. [...] a bunch of my friends in Silicon Valley were working for Wave, a company that helps immigrants send remittances to their families in East Africa [...] Silicon Valley was leading a revolution in solar power that’s resulted in a 1500% increase in cell installations over the past few years. [...]

> Or maybe we should try to be more quantitative about this. I looked at the latest batch of 52 startups from legendary SiliconValle... more »

> The nation has spoken: weird pointless $400 wi-fi enabled juicer company Juicero is the perfect symbol of Silicon Valley. [...] I want to take a step back and suggest a reality check.

> While Deadspin was busy calling Silicon Valley “awful nightmare trash parasites”, my girlfriend in Silicon Valley was working for a company developing a structured-light optical engine to manipulate single cells and speed up high-precision biological research. [...] a bunch of my friends in Silicon Valley were working for Wave, a company that helps immigrants send remittances to their families in East Africa [...] Silicon Valley was leading a revolution in solar power that’s resulted in a 1500% increase in cell installations over the past few years. [...]

> Or maybe we should try to be more quantitative about this. I looked at the latest batch of 52 startups from legendary Silicon Valley startup incubator Y Combinator. [...] Thirteen of them had an altruistic or international development focus [...] Twelve of them seemed like really exciting cutting-edge technology [...] Eighteen of them seemed like boring meat-and-potatoes companies aimed at businesses [...] And the remaining nine were your ridiculous niche Uber-for-tacos startups that we all know and love. [...] I also looked at the first twenty startups in the portfolio of Andreessen Horowitz, a famous Valley venture capitalist firm [...]

> So although meat-and-potato business/software companies do outnumber really high-tech or altruistic ventures, there’s not a lot of evidence for silly Juicero-style startups being much of the Silicon Valley business community at all. So how come everyone thinks that they are?

> Here’s my theory. If you’re an average well-off person, leading your average well-off life, consuming average well-off media and seeing ads targeted at the average well-off demographic, and going over to your average well-off friends’ houses and seeing their average well-off products, which are you more likely to hear about? A structured-light optical engine for cytological research? Or a juicer?___

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2017-05-14 17:11:54 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 13 +1s; )Open 

> There is something similar going on in numerous films and television series. The phenomenon has been called “universe-shrinking”. What happens is that the characters in a science-fiction or thriller franchise are initially sent off on adventures in the wider world. James Bond goes after Goldfinger, Doctor Who defends the Earth against the Daleks, and so on. But after a while that world grows smaller and smaller until there is nothing in it which isn’t connected to the protagonists.

> The most famous example of this phenomenon pre-dates the current trend by four decades. George Lucas’s “Star Wars” saga introduced a hero, Luke Skywalker, who was a farm boy from the back of beyond. There was a great big galaxy out there that had nothing do with him – and that was what made the film so magical. The message was that even a lowly peasant from the middle of nowhere could rescue abeautiful pri... more »

> There is something similar going on in numerous films and television series. The phenomenon has been called “universe-shrinking”. What happens is that the characters in a science-fiction or thriller franchise are initially sent off on adventures in the wider world. James Bond goes after Goldfinger, Doctor Who defends the Earth against the Daleks, and so on. But after a while that world grows smaller and smaller until there is nothing in it which isn’t connected to the protagonists.

> The most famous example of this phenomenon pre-dates the current trend by four decades. George Lucas’s “Star Wars” saga introduced a hero, Luke Skywalker, who was a farm boy from the back of beyond. There was a great big galaxy out there that had nothing do with him – and that was what made the film so magical. The message was that even a lowly peasant from the middle of nowhere could rescue a beautiful princess and confound an aristocratic villain. But the sequel, “The Empire Strikes Back”, revealed that Luke was the son of that aristocratic villain, Darth Vader. And the third film in the trilogy, “The Return of the Jedi”, added that he was also the brother of the beautiful Princess Leia. A humble nobody’s rise to universe-saving glory was recast as a squabble over a royal breakfast table.

> When “Star Wars” was revived in 2015 with “The Force Awakens”, this shift from galaxy-spanning epic to domestic soap opera was taken to a laughable new extreme: its villain, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) was the son of Princess Leia and Han Solo, the nephew of Luke Skywalker and the grandson of Darth Vader. Meanwhile, Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) opened by debating the ethical issues raised by superheroes, but its final fight was about one character murdering another’s parents. And when the Bourne franchise returned last year with “Jason Bourne”, its amnesiac hero discovered that he wasn’t just a soldier who had enrolled in the CIA’s shadowy Operation Treadstone: he was the son of the man who had created Treadstone in the first place. Again and again, sprawling conflicts are being reduced to family feuds. [...]

> It’s not too hard to see why such universe-shrinking appeals to screenwriters. Drama is fuelled by revelations, and there aren’t many revelations more momentous – or easier to write – than, “I am your father/sister/brother!” Giving the protagonist a personal involvement in the plot is also a simple way of raising the emotional stakes, as well as making him or her more sympathetic to the viewer. Most of us will never be lucky enough to blow up a moon-sized space station, as Luke Skywalker did, but we all know what it’s like to be angry at a parent or resentful of a sibling. [...]

> Whatever the reasons, I’d much rather see Bond and Bourne righting wrongs that had nothing to do with them. Boiling down every plot to the protagonist’s own coterie makes their adventures seem like petty, private matters. It isn’t just the fictional universe which is diminished, but the nobility of the characters within it. Surely, one measure of heroism is to put your life on the line for a cause which doesn’t affect you personally.___

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2017-05-14 17:09:30 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

> On Apr 28, at a TED conference, Musk explained his proposal to deploy continuous tunnel-boring machines that link cities through a network of deep underground tunnels. [...] To illustrate his idea, Musk did some back-of-the-envelope calculations outlining “a straightforward series of steps:”dig narrower tunnels with faster machines that drill continuously rather than the slow, manual and often inefficient methods used today. His full description of the math is summarized below:

> First, dig a smaller tunnel. Replacing a typical subway tunnel (about 28 feet across) with one half that size (14 feet across) reduces the area by a factor of four (since area = π x radius^2). Since tunnel costs are correlated with area, a $1 billion tunnel could now cost roughly $250 million.

> Second, speed it up. Tunneling machines today work half the time and then stop for reinforcement oftunn... more »

> On Apr 28, at a TED conference, Musk explained his proposal to deploy continuous tunnel-boring machines that link cities through a network of deep underground tunnels. [...] To illustrate his idea, Musk did some back-of-the-envelope calculations outlining “a straightforward series of steps:”dig narrower tunnels with faster machines that drill continuously rather than the slow, manual and often inefficient methods used today. His full description of the math is summarized below:

> First, dig a smaller tunnel. Replacing a typical subway tunnel (about 28 feet across) with one half that size (14 feet across) reduces the area by a factor of four (since area = π x radius^2). Since tunnel costs are correlated with area, a $1 billion tunnel could now cost roughly $250 million.

> Second, speed it up. Tunneling machines today work half the time and then stop for reinforcement of tunnel walls. Musk proposes continuous tunneling and reinforcing (which is not yet possible), cutting costs in half again. A hypothetical tunnel would then cost about $125 million.

> Finally, drill faster. Today’s boring machines are nowhere near their “power or thermal limits.” That, he estimates, would cut costs by as much as five-fold. Now a $1 billion tunnel costs something more like $60 million (or even $25 million in an optimistic scenario). [...]

> It’s a trick Musk has repeated at each of his companies. Musk described an identical strategy behind Tesla’s manufacturing technology at the company’s 2016 annual meeting: reconfigure today’s inefficient factories. [...] “I do my favorite thing which is apply physics first principles,” he said. “It’s like the best tool possible.” [...]

> ... the factory was reduced to a different equation: output = volume x density x velocity. Need to bring down the cost of batteries? Fill as much of the factory’s volume possible with equipment. Instead of using 3% of the volumetric space, Tesla plans to use at least 30% to get more production per unit of space. Need to produce 500,000 cars per year rather than the 50,000 Tesla has managed so far? Speed up the assembly line by a factor of seven from its typical 0.2 meters per second to 1.5 meters per second. Then build factories as a series of mini facilities, each one iterating on the design of the last so incremental improvements can be rolled out to Tesla’s battery, solar panel, and car plants.___

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2017-05-14 16:44:23 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

> ... what if you offered philosophers the following Faustian bargain:
> (A) You solve all the major philosophical problems of your choice so conclusively that there is nothing left to say (thanks to you, part of the field closes down forever, and you get a footnote in history)
> (B) You write a book of such tantalizing perplexity and controversy that it stays on the required reading list for centuries to come.
> (Dennett 2013, 411)

> In essence: Do you want to be right? Or do you want fame and renown? Dennett notes that philosophers to whom he presents the bargain often admit they would go for (B), which is surprising given the ostensible aim of their philosophical inquiries.

> Now, to be fair, the Faustian bargain is probably a false one. Solving a philosophical problem and only becoming a footnote in history is unlikely. If you do get things right,... more »

> ... what if you offered philosophers the following Faustian bargain:
> (A) You solve all the major philosophical problems of your choice so conclusively that there is nothing left to say (thanks to you, part of the field closes down forever, and you get a footnote in history)
> (B) You write a book of such tantalizing perplexity and controversy that it stays on the required reading list for centuries to come.
> (Dennett 2013, 411)

> In essence: Do you want to be right? Or do you want fame and renown? Dennett notes that philosophers to whom he presents the bargain often admit they would go for (B), which is surprising given the ostensible aim of their philosophical inquiries.

> Now, to be fair, the Faustian bargain is probably a false one. Solving a philosophical problem and only becoming a footnote in history is unlikely. If you do get things right, you can expect to acquire some fame or infamy. Future generations are likely to be taught something about your work. But the Faustian bargain isn’t intended to be realistic. It’s a contortion of reality that forces you to confront your true priorities. Do you really care about getting the right answer? Or do you really only care about yourself? I suspect many academics struggle with this dilemma. So much of modern academia is about self-promotion and self-aggrandisement. You promote your work; you win grants; you endlessly demonstrate your value to the institution that pays your wage. Oftentimes the objects of your intellectual inquiries get lost in the mix.

> Scientists might think they are above all this. They get caught up in the game as much as anyone, but they might argue that no matter what they are ultimately only interested in the truth of their theories. But this isn’t entirely clear. Dennett suggests that you can offer them a similar bargain. You can ask whether they would like to have priority in making a significant discovery — that someone, somewhere was eventually going to make (e.g. working out the structure of DNA) — or whether they would like to propose a theory so novel and intriguing (but not necessarily right) that their name would enter the scientific lexicon (e.g. Freudian psychoanalysis or Chomskian linguistics). Many might be hard-pressed to choose.

> Dennett isn’t very prescriptive with respect to the Faustian bargain. He doesn’t say which side we should favour (though you might be able to imply his preferences). But I don’t think he needs to be prescriptive. I think his point is that the bargain is something worth keeping in mind when trying to sort out your intellectual priorities.___

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2017-05-11 19:26:13 (4 comments; 4 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

> Did anyone notice how quickly the internet turned into a Lovecraftian horror scenario?

> Like we’ve got this dimension right next to ours, that extends across the entire planet, and it is just brimming with nightmares. We have spambots, viruses, ransomware, this endless legion of malevolent entities that are blindly probing us for weaknesses, seeking only to corrupt, to thieve, to destroy.

> Add onto that the corrupted ones themselves, humans who’ve abandoned morality and given up faces to hunt other people, jeering them, lashing out, seeing how easy it is to kill something you can’t touch or see or smell. They’ll corrupt anything they think could be a vessel for their message and they’ll jabber madly at any who question them. Their chittering haunts every corner of the internet. They are not unlike the spambots in some ways.

> Add on top of that thearcane ma... more »

> Did anyone notice how quickly the internet turned into a Lovecraftian horror scenario?

> Like we’ve got this dimension right next to ours, that extends across the entire planet, and it is just brimming with nightmares. We have spambots, viruses, ransomware, this endless legion of malevolent entities that are blindly probing us for weaknesses, seeking only to corrupt, to thieve, to destroy.

> Add onto that the corrupted ones themselves, humans who’ve abandoned morality and given up faces to hunt other people, jeering them, lashing out, seeing how easy it is to kill something you can’t touch or see or smell. They’ll corrupt anything they think could be a vessel for their message and they’ll jabber madly at any who question them. Their chittering haunts every corner of the internet. They are not unlike the spambots in some ways.

> Add on top of that the arcane magisters, who are forever working at the cracks between our world and the world we made. Some of them do it for fun, some of them do it for wealth, others do it for the power of nations unwise enough to trust them. There are mages who work to defend against this particular evil, but they are mad prophets, and their advice is almost never heeded, even by those who keep them as protection.___

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2017-05-11 16:26:44 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 0 +1s; )Open 

> [By 2117] languages will have changed considerably.

> This goes beyond picking up new vocabulary (imagine a time traveller from 1917 trying to follow a discussion about viewing youtube videos of cruise missile strikes on ISIS positions in Syria on iPhones: the grammatical structure is accessible but a lot of the noun parts cannot be clarified without a dizzying deep dive into unimagined-in-1917 new technologies). Let's consider English--which I expect will still be around as a trade language, at least, simply because it's already so widespread. We're already seeing a shift towards simplified spelling (as practied in the US dialect) and towards abandonment of some punctuation forms; the semi-colon may be on the way out, as is the plural apostrophe, just as a number of characters used in old English (the thorn or "y"-like character, for example) vanished. More... more »

> [By 2117] languages will have changed considerably.

> This goes beyond picking up new vocabulary (imagine a time traveller from 1917 trying to follow a discussion about viewing youtube videos of cruise missile strikes on ISIS positions in Syria on iPhones: the grammatical structure is accessible but a lot of the noun parts cannot be clarified without a dizzying deep dive into unimagined-in-1917 new technologies). Let's consider English--which I expect will still be around as a trade language, at least, simply because it's already so widespread. We're already seeing a shift towards simplified spelling (as practied in the US dialect) and towards abandonment of some punctuation forms; the semi-colon may be on the way out, as is the plural apostrophe, just as a number of characters used in old English (the thorn or "y"-like character, for example) vanished. More controversially English: is going to acquire a new writing system. Not all languages use a single alphabet; consider Japanese, with its eclectic mixture of syllabaries (hiragana and katakana), logographic ideograms (kanji), and romanji (roman alphabet, mostly used for loan words), not to mention arabic numerals. English currently has about three main writing systems (if we exclude shorthand notations, now a dying form, and Braile): we have roman block lettering in upper and lower case, we have arabic numerals, and we have cursive handwritten forms (also now slowly dying out). But a fourth English form is rapidly emerging in the shape of emoji, which I think are best viewed as a secondary ideographic written form optimised for visually dense text on display devices. Emoji are pared down and lack a bunch of the characteristics we associate with English grammar such as tenses and punctuation and verb conjugation ... but that's not what they're for. I suspect that over the next century (assuming we don't lose our technological infrastructure) current mechanisms for writing will be supplanted by newer ones--e.g. the replacement of discrete mechanical keys on keyboards with multitouch keyboards and then with gestural/swipe interfaces, where each dictionary word is replaced by a directional ideogram swiped across a QWERTY keymap, until eventually the ideogram replaces the alphabetic word or is auto-replaced by a corresponding emoji. ___

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2017-05-10 19:14:36 (6 comments; 2 reshares; 3 +1s; )Open 

> ... a number of methods have converged on the estimate that every human child contains roughly 100 new mutations—genetic changes that were not present in their parents. To be sure, many of these occur in inert regions, or are otherwise “silent” and so do no harm. But a few are very harmful individually; and although the remainder are individually small in effect, collectively they plague each individual with debilitating infirmities. [...]

> If a species is not to melt down under the hard rain of accumulating mutations, the rate at which harmful mutations are introduced must equal the rate at which selection removes them (mutation-selection balance). [...] For a balance to exist between mutation and selection, a critical number of offspring must die before reproduction—die because they carry an excess load of mutations. [...] Most ancestral humans were fated by physics to bechildle... more »

> ... a number of methods have converged on the estimate that every human child contains roughly 100 new mutations—genetic changes that were not present in their parents. To be sure, many of these occur in inert regions, or are otherwise “silent” and so do no harm. But a few are very harmful individually; and although the remainder are individually small in effect, collectively they plague each individual with debilitating infirmities. [...]

> If a species is not to melt down under the hard rain of accumulating mutations, the rate at which harmful mutations are introduced must equal the rate at which selection removes them (mutation-selection balance). [...] For a balance to exist between mutation and selection, a critical number of offspring must die before reproduction—die because they carry an excess load of mutations. [...] Most ancestral humans were fated by physics to be childless vessels whose deaths served to carry harmful mutations out of the species. [...]

> Now, along comes the demographic transition—the recent shift to lower death rates and then lower birth rates. Malthusian catastrophe was averted, but the price of relaxing selection has been moving the mutation-selection balance toward an unsustainable increase in genetic diseases. Various naturalistic experiments suggest this meltdown can proceed rapidly. (Salmon raised in captivity for only a few generations were strongly outcompeted by wild salmon subject to selection.) Indeed, it is possible that the drop in death rates over the demographic transition caused—by increasing the genetic load—the subsequent drop in birth rates below replacement: If humans are equipped with physiological assessment systems to detect when they are in good enough condition to conceive and raise a child, and if each successive generation bears a greater number of micro-impairments that aggregate into, say, stressed exhaustion, then the paradoxical outcome of improving public health for several generations would be ever lower birth rates. One or two children are far too few to shed incoming mutations.

> No one could regret the victory over infectious disease and starvation now spreading across the planet. But we as a species need an intensified research program into germline engineering, so that the Enlightenment science that allowed us to conquer infectious disease will allow us to conquer genetic disease (through genetic repair in the zygote, morula, or blastocyst). With genetic counseling, we have already focused on the small set of catastrophic genes, but we need to sharpen our focus on the extremely high number of subtle, minor impairments that statistically aggregate into major problems.

> I am not talking about the ethical complexities of engineering new human genes. Imagine instead that at every locus, the infant received healthy genes from her parents. These would not be genetic experiments with unknown outcomes: Healthy genes are healthy precisely because they interacted well with each other over evolutionary time. Parents could choose to have children created from their healthiest genes, rather than leaving children to be shotgunned with a random and increasing fraction of damaged genes. Genetic repair would replace the ancient cruelty of natural selection, which only fights entropy by tormenting organisms because of their genes. ___

2017-05-10 16:57:41 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

A proposed answer to the Fermi paradox: a civilization can make more efficient use of its computational resources once the universe is cooler. Thus technological civilizations may expand enough to gain access to raw materials and then go to sleep to conserve their acquired resources until the universe is cooler. The reason why we don't see them is that the expansion phase can be accomplished quickly, after which the sleeping civilizations will be hard to detect.

> If a civilization wants to maximize computation it appears rational to aestivate until the far future in order to exploit the low temperature environment: this can produce a 10^30 multiplier of achievable computation. We hence suggest the "aestivation hypothesis": the reason we are not observing manifestations of alien civilizations is that they are currently (mostly) inactive, patiently waiting for future cosmic eras.... more »

A possible answer to the Fermi paradox: are advanced alien civilization sleeping in the current era, waiting for the computation-friendly cold of the far future? We analyse how observations of the current state of the universe constrain this hypothesis. https://arxiv.org/abs/1705.03394___A proposed answer to the Fermi paradox: a civilization can make more efficient use of its computational resources once the universe is cooler. Thus technological civilizations may expand enough to gain access to raw materials and then go to sleep to conserve their acquired resources until the universe is cooler. The reason why we don't see them is that the expansion phase can be accomplished quickly, after which the sleeping civilizations will be hard to detect.

> If a civilization wants to maximize computation it appears rational to aestivate until the far future in order to exploit the low temperature environment: this can produce a 10^30 multiplier of achievable computation. We hence suggest the "aestivation hypothesis": the reason we are not observing manifestations of alien civilizations is that they are currently (mostly) inactive, patiently waiting for future cosmic eras. This paper analyzes the assumptions going into the hypothesis and how physical law and observational evidence constrain the motivations of aliens compatible with the hypothesis.

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2017-05-10 16:28:17 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 3 +1s; )Open 

The connection between Haidt's Moral Foundations and political orientation has most often been tested in the USA, where the finding has usually been that liberals mostly endorse the Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity foundations while conservatives endorse all five foundations. But the USA is an outlier in how strongly the (social) liberal/conservative and (economic) left-right axes tend to be correlated with each other.

In a study of a representative Finnish sample, it turns out that the original finding is replicated for the liberal/conservative axis, BUT the left-right axis behaves differently. Economic leftism is weakly associated with Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity, rightism with Loyalty/Ingroup and Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity is not associated with either.

> So basically, the finding is that liberal-conservative orientation and left-right orientation are... more »

The connection between Haidt's Moral Foundations and political orientation has most often been tested in the USA, where the finding has usually been that liberals mostly endorse the Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity foundations while conservatives endorse all five foundations. But the USA is an outlier in how strongly the (social) liberal/conservative and (economic) left-right axes tend to be correlated with each other.

In a study of a representative Finnish sample, it turns out that the original finding is replicated for the liberal/conservative axis, BUT the left-right axis behaves differently. Economic leftism is weakly associated with Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity, rightism with Loyalty/Ingroup and Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity is not associated with either.

> So basically, the finding is that liberal-conservative orientation and left-right orientation are differently related to moral foundations.___

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2017-05-10 11:10:46 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )Open 

Unexpected things may happen when you put custom empires into Stellaris:

Unexpected things may happen when you put custom empires into Stellaris:___

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2017-05-09 16:16:39 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

> Why don’t you shoot messengers? What does that tradition actually mean?

> Well, in a war, you want to preserve the ability to negotiate for peace. If you kill a member of the enemy’s army, that puts you closer to winning the war, and that’s fine. If you kill a messenger, that sends a message that the enemy can’t safely make treaties with you, and that means you destroy the means of making peace — both for this war and the wars to come. It’s much, much more devastating than just killing one man.

> This is also probably why guest law exists in so many cultures. In a world ruled by clans, where a “stranger” is a potential enemy, it’s vitally important to have a ritual that guarantees nonviolence, such as breaking bread under the same roof. Otherwise there would be no way to broker peace between your family and the stranger over the next hill.
> This is wh... more »

> Why don’t you shoot messengers? What does that tradition actually mean?

> Well, in a war, you want to preserve the ability to negotiate for peace. If you kill a member of the enemy’s army, that puts you closer to winning the war, and that’s fine. If you kill a messenger, that sends a message that the enemy can’t safely make treaties with you, and that means you destroy the means of making peace — both for this war and the wars to come. It’s much, much more devastating than just killing one man.

> This is also probably why guest law exists in so many cultures. In a world ruled by clans, where a “stranger” is a potential enemy, it’s vitally important to have a ritual that guarantees nonviolence, such as breaking bread under the same roof. Otherwise there would be no way to broker peace between your family and the stranger over the next hill.

> This is why the Latin hostis (enemy) and hospes (guest or host) are etymologically cognate. This is why the Greeks had a concept of xenia so entrenched that they told stories about a man being tied to a fiery wheel for eternity for harming a guest. This is why the sin of Sodom was inhospitality.

> It’s actually not about charity or compassion, exactly. It’s about coordinating a way to not kill each other.

> Guest law and not shooting messengers are natural law: they are practical necessities due to game theory, that ancient peoples traditionally concretized into virtues like “honor” or “hospitality.” But it’s no longer common knowledge what they’re for.___

2017-05-09 08:19:30 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

Mental contrasting to reduce unnecessary anxiety: I recently used this technique on an anxiety-causing fear I knew was totally disproportionate, and found this very, very helpful. You may want to give it a shot if you suffer from something similar.

> Think about a fear you have about the future that is vexing you quite a bit and that you know is unjustified. Summarize your fear in three to four words. For instance, suppose you’re a father who has gotten divorced and you share custody with your ex-wife, who has gotten remarried. For the sake of your daughter’s happiness, you want to become friendly with her stepfather, but you find yourself stymied by your own emotions. Your fear might be “My daughter will become less attached to me and more attached to her stepfather.” Now go on to imagine the worst possible outcome. In this case, it might be “I feel distanced from mydaughter.... more »

Mental contrasting to reduce unnecessary anxiety: I recently used this technique on an anxiety-causing fear I knew was totally disproportionate, and found this very, very helpful. You may want to give it a shot if you suffer from something similar.

> Think about a fear you have about the future that is vexing you quite a bit and that you know is unjustified. Summarize your fear in three to four words. For instance, suppose you’re a father who has gotten divorced and you share custody with your ex-wife, who has gotten remarried. For the sake of your daughter’s happiness, you want to become friendly with her stepfather, but you find yourself stymied by your own emotions. Your fear might be “My daughter will become less attached to me and more attached to her stepfather.” Now go on to imagine the worst possible outcome. In this case, it might be “I feel distanced from my daughter. When I see her she ignores me, but she eagerly spends time with her stepfather.” Okay, now think of the positive reality that stands in the way of this fear coming true. What in your actual life suggests that your fear won’t really come to pass? What’s the single key element? In this case, it might be “The fact that my daughter is extremely attached to me and loves me, and it’s obvious to anyone around us.” Close your eyes and elaborate on this reality.

> Now take a step back. Did the exercise help? I think you’ll find that by being reminded of the positive reality standing in the way, you will be less transfixed by the anxious fantasy. When I conducted this kind of mental contrasting with people in Germany, they reported that the experience was soothing, akin to taking a warm bath or getting a massage. “It just made me feel so much calmer and more secure,” one woman told me. “I sense that I am more grounded and focused.”

> Mental contrasting can produce results with both unjustified fears as well as overblown fears rooted in a kernel of truth. If as a child you suffered through a couple of painful visits to the dentist, you might today fear going to get a filling replaced, and this fear might become so terrorizing that you put off taking care of your dental needs until you just cannot avoid it. Mental contrasting will help you in this case to approach the task of going to the dentist. But if your fear is justified, then mental contrasting will confirm this, since there is nothing preventing your fear from coming true. The exercise will then help you to take preventive measures or avoid the impending danger altogether.

> One caveat: mental contrasting is most appropriate for unjustified fears that are strong and debilitating. A great deal of research has shown that a total lack of anxiety detracts from performance, just as extreme anxiety does (especially when the task in question is complex). If you’re a student who experiences debilitating anxiety around taking tests, mental contrasting can help you approach the object of your fears so that you can perform better. But if you experience only mild to moderate anxiety, you may benefit from feeling a bit of anxiety, and mentally contrasting your fears may leave you feeling too relaxed and not sufficiently motivated to prepare. When trying mental contrasting to approach your own fears, I advise that you first make sure to honestly evaluate whether your fears are unjustified, or whether they might not spur you on to more effort and better performance.

-- Oettingen, Gabriele. Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation. Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition. ___

2017-05-06 18:10:21 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )Open 

> Before about 1960, the prevailing school of philosophy of science, logical empiricism, was committed to the view that the vocabulary of science must be in a theory-neutral observational language, and that theories are propositions, or sets of propositions, using that vocabulary and terms constructed from it. [...] Disagreements over theories and theory change were thus to be seen as differences concerning what propositions should be held true; but the propositions were understood to be framed in a common vocabulary, or at least one that could be specified independently of the competing theories. All of this began to change in the 19605, as a number of philosophers of science began to see individual theories as tightly interconnected units, and to see competing (or successor) theories not so much in terms of making incompatible claims in the same vocabulary as offering alternative ways of... more »

> Before about 1960, the prevailing school of philosophy of science, logical empiricism, was committed to the view that the vocabulary of science must be in a theory-neutral observational language, and that theories are propositions, or sets of propositions, using that vocabulary and terms constructed from it. [...] Disagreements over theories and theory change were thus to be seen as differences concerning what propositions should be held true; but the propositions were understood to be framed in a common vocabulary, or at least one that could be specified independently of the competing theories. All of this began to change in the 19605, as a number of philosophers of science began to see individual theories as tightly interconnected units, and to see competing (or successor) theories not so much in terms of making incompatible claims in the same vocabulary as offering alternative ways of conceptualizing their subject matter. Competing (or successor) theories came to be regarded not so much as contradictory as incommensurable, and theory change not as piecemeal change in particular scientific beliefs but as revolutionary change in paradigms for understanding particular aspects of the world. [...]

> While scientific theories employ terms used more generally in ordinary language, and the same term may appear in multiple theories, key theoretical terminology is proprietary to the theory and cannot be understood apart from it. To learn a new theory, one must master the terminology as a whole: “Many of the referring terms of at least scientific languages cannot be acquired or defined one at a time but must instead be learned in clusters" (Kuhn 1983/2000, 211). And as the meanings of the terms and the connections between them differ from theory to theory, a statement from one theory may literally be nonsensical in the framework of another. The Newtonian notions of absolute space and of mass that is independent of velocity, for example, are nonsensical within the context of relativistic mechanics. The different theoretical vocabularies are also tied to different theoretical taxonomies of objects. Ptolemy’s theory classified the sun as a planet, defined as something that orbits the Earth, whereas Copernicus’s theory classified the sun as a star and planets as things that orbit stars, hence making the Earth a planet. Moreover, not only does the classificatory vocabulary of a theory come as an ensemble-with different elements in nonoverlapping contrast classes-but it is also interdefined with the laws of the theory. The tight constitutive interconnections within scientific theories between terms and other terms, and between terms and laws, have the important consequence that any change in terms or laws ramifies to constitute changes in meanings of terms and the law or laws involved with the theory [...].

> While Kuhn’s initial interest was in revolutionary changes in theories about what is in a broader sense a single phenomenon (e.g., changes in theories of gravitation, thermodynamics, or astronomy), he later came to realize that similar considerations could be applied to differences in uses of theoretical terms between contemporary subdisciplines in a science (1983/2000, 238). And while he continued to favor a linguistic analogy for talking about conceptual change and incommensurability, he moved from speaking about moving between theories as “translation” to a “bilingualism" that afforded multiple resources for understanding the world - a change that is particularly important when considering differences in terms as used in different subdisciplines.

-- Steven Horst: Cognitive Pluralism ___

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2017-05-06 17:25:09 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

Not a particularly new point, but expressed well and worth bringing up repeatedly:

> There are many businessmen who own knowledge today. Consider Elsevier, the largest scholarly publisher, whose 37% profit margin stands in sharp contrast to the rising fees, expanding student loan debt and poverty-level wages for adjunct faculty. [...] Robert Darnton, the past director of Harvard Library, says "We faculty do the research, write the papers, referee papers by other researchers, serve on editorial boards, all of it for free … and then we buy back the results of our labour at outrageous prices." For all the work supported by public money benefiting scholarly publishers, particularly the peer review that grounds their legitimacy, journal articles are priced such that they prohibit access to science to many academics - and all non-academics - across the world, and render it a token ofp... more »

Not a particularly new point, but expressed well and worth bringing up repeatedly:

> There are many businessmen who own knowledge today. Consider Elsevier, the largest scholarly publisher, whose 37% profit margin stands in sharp contrast to the rising fees, expanding student loan debt and poverty-level wages for adjunct faculty. [...] Robert Darnton, the past director of Harvard Library, says "We faculty do the research, write the papers, referee papers by other researchers, serve on editorial boards, all of it for free … and then we buy back the results of our labour at outrageous prices." For all the work supported by public money benefiting scholarly publishers, particularly the peer review that grounds their legitimacy, journal articles are priced such that they prohibit access to science to many academics - and all non-academics - across the world, and render it a token of privilege.

> Elsevier has recently filed a copyright infringement suit in New York against Science Hub and Library Genesis claiming millions of dollars in damages. [...] Even as the New York District Court was delivering its injunction, news came of the entire editorial board of highly-esteemed journal Lingua handing in their collective resignation, citing as their reason the refusal by Elsevier to go open access and give up on the high fees it charges to authors and their academic institutions. As we write these lines, a petition is doing the rounds demanding that Taylor & Francis doesn't shut down Ashgate, a formerly independent humanities publisher that it acquired earlier in 2015. It is threatened to go the way of other small publishers that are being rolled over by the growing monopoly and concentration in the publishing market. These are just some of the signs that the system is broken. It devalues us, authors, editors and readers alike. It parasites on our labor, it thwarts our service to the public, it denies us access. [...]

> ...closed access’s monopoly over academic publishing, its spectacular profits and its central role in the allocation of academic prestige trump the public interest. Commercial publishers effectively impede open access, criminalize us, prosecute our heroes and heroines, and destroy our libraries, again and again. Before Science Hub and Library Genesis there was Library.nu or Gigapedia; before Gigapedia there was textz.com; before textz.com there was little; and before there was little there was nothing. That's what they want: to reduce most of us back to nothing. And they have the full support of the courts and law to do exactly that. [...]

> We demonstrate daily, and on a massive scale, that the system is broken. We share our writing secretly behind the backs of our publishers, circumvent paywalls to access articles and publications, digitize and upload books to libraries. This is the other side of 37% profit margins: our knowledge commons grows in the fault lines of a broken system. We are all custodians of knowledge, custodians of the same infrastructures that we depend on for producing knowledge, custodians of our fertile but fragile commons. To be a custodian is, de facto, to download, to share, to read, to write, to review, to edit, to digitize, to archive, to maintain libraries, to make them accessible. It is to be of use to, not to make property of, our knowledge commons. [...] This is the time to recognize that the very existence of our massive knowledge commons is an act of collective civil disobedience.___

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2017-05-06 17:10:52 (1 comments; 3 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

> How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Can Talk is a parenting / communication book written by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. While this book is specifically intended for parents to have better relationships with their children, the vast majority of the advice contained within applies universally to all interactions, and I have written this summary specifically to abstract away from parent-child relationships. I consider the first chapter alone better at helping people internalize the principles behind nonviolent communication than Rosenberg’s entire book. HTTSKWL is currently by far my most highly recommended communications book, and because it is appealing to parents and children it is a remarkably easy read.

> General perspective [...] Cultivating the attitude and mindset of compassion is far more important than any specific technique, advice, wording, etc.more »

> How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Can Talk is a parenting / communication book written by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. While this book is specifically intended for parents to have better relationships with their children, the vast majority of the advice contained within applies universally to all interactions, and I have written this summary specifically to abstract away from parent-child relationships. I consider the first chapter alone better at helping people internalize the principles behind nonviolent communication than Rosenberg’s entire book. HTTSKWL is currently by far my most highly recommended communications book, and because it is appealing to parents and children it is a remarkably easy read.

> General perspective [...] Cultivating the attitude and mindset of compassion is far more important than any specific technique, advice, wording, etc.

> We should always be communicating that the other person is capable and lovable, finding a way to feel good about ourselves and helping others to do the same, to live without blame and recrimination, to be sensitive to each other’s feelings, to be respectful of the needs of ourselves and others, to help people become more caring and responsible, and break the feedback loop of harmful interactions between ourselves.

> Empathy doesn’t come naturally to us (and may even feel counterintuitive), so it is something we must learn and practice. It turns out that love, spontaneity, and good intentions are not always enough to ensure good results – we need real skills. Roleplaying and doing exercises can be incredibly helpful practice, particularly in advance of difficult real-world situations.

> Sometimes people will tell us that empathy doesn’t work. Usually upon further investigation it becomes clear that they have fallen into a failure mode, of which there are many, including some very subtle. But if you are empathizing properly and it doesn’t seem to be working, it is probably still working. It takes time for people to update, especially when a pattern is very ingrained. It may take many attempts, and many successful repetitions, before the improvement becomes clear. Don’t resort to your old behaviors because it didn’t work the first time, there are many skills contained within to use, in combination and with increasing intensity. Some days are better than others, dramatic overnight results are rare, refuse to become discouraged!___

2017-05-06 16:42:52 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

> I think it’s safe to say that political beliefs are one of the most sticky types of beliefs we commonly hold. [...] But, as good rationalists, all of our beliefs should be subject to updating upon receiving further information – and when I look at my political beliefs over the years, I see that they have indeed changed, in some ways massively, in other ways slow and subtly. I thought it would be an interesting to lay out what the drivers of these changes were, as a case study in the art of changing one’s mind. [...]

> It’s Not the Economy, Stupid [...] ...my model of people [used to be] much closer to Homo economicus. [...] I have incredible respect for the economic order. It is a beautiful and elegant optimization algorithm, dynamically matching needs and wants and producing coordination on a scale we can scarcely imagine. But it is also an inhuman – and thus inhumane– order, ... more »

> I think it’s safe to say that political beliefs are one of the most sticky types of beliefs we commonly hold. [...] But, as good rationalists, all of our beliefs should be subject to updating upon receiving further information – and when I look at my political beliefs over the years, I see that they have indeed changed, in some ways massively, in other ways slow and subtly. I thought it would be an interesting to lay out what the drivers of these changes were, as a case study in the art of changing one’s mind. [...]

> It’s Not the Economy, Stupid [...] ...my model of people [used to be] much closer to Homo economicus. [...] I have incredible respect for the economic order. It is a beautiful and elegant optimization algorithm, dynamically matching needs and wants and producing coordination on a scale we can scarcely imagine. But it is also an inhuman – and thus inhumane – order, that does not hold the components of that order in any regard. Even Hayek realized that we have two completely separate domains, with separate rules and necessities for interaction, and that we cannot apply one to the other without losing something important. I would argue that as much as liberals try to apply the human elements to the market, libertarians try to apply the market elements to the humans.

> [...] lived experiences, those relationships with each other, the joy, the love, the loss, those are the things that make life worth living. Ultimately both [the human and economic systems] depend upon one another – the order cannot exist without the [human] substrate, and the substrate cannot thrive without the order – and both have to be taken into account. Particularly, we must be able to care for the substrate in a way that least distorts and damages the economic order. [...]

> Negentropy [...] I used to much more strongly believe in resilience – that complex adaptive systems tended to have a stochastic but ultimately beneficial path of growth and development. I believed this was true of personal development (the subject of another much needed blog post), and I believed it was true of civilization as a whole. If the current system completely burned down, a beautiful new shoot would emerge from the ashes and produce a new civilization even better than before… so might as well hurry through those nasty end-times and get to that nice little rebirth in my lifetime! But it became very hard to square this with notions of persistent trauma, or civilizations in decline for centuries, or the seemingly inevitable decline of large corporations and political institutions, or how very horrible revolutions can be, or even the biological effects of aging. Indeed, once I started to check the track record, progress started to look like a slow and steady process only when conditions allow, while declines were more sudden, very harmful to those involved, and permanently weakened the surviving institutions. To build is far harder than to destroy. [...]

> [The NYC rationality group] received a flood of new members very rapidly. We had no idea how to onboard so many people, how to raise their level of collective awesomeness fast enough, how to maintain the values and norms and shared experiences that we had carefully cultivated over the previous year. [...] I suspect that more and more groups have problems with this as politeness and inclusiveness are values that our larger cultural milieu have come to hold very strongly. [...] And there is a tension forming even now within that cultural milieu, as evidenced by the rise of the safe space, a place that values safety, comfort, and belonging at the cost of inclusiveness. I want safe spaces for everyone – including me, my family, and those who share my memes – but you cannot maintain a safe space without defining who is allowed to be in that space, and who is not. ___

2017-05-06 11:40:36 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

On the cognitive psychology of souls and free will:

The book I'm currently reading, Cognitive Pluralism, cites research suggesting that human infants as well as many non-human animals (particularly primates) are born with four "hard-coded" core reasoning systems:

- A core object system which identifies cohesive and continuous objects (as opposed to say liquids or heaps), enables tracking of such objects, and causes us to expect that objects will follow some specific properties: they will preserve their boundaries, move as a unit, interact with one another only through contact, and be set into motion only when acted on through direct contact. Has some signature limitations, such that we can only attend to about 3-4 objects at the same time.

- A core number system which allows for numerical comparisons, such as by saying that a set with... more »

On the cognitive psychology of souls and free will:

The book I'm currently reading, Cognitive Pluralism, cites research suggesting that human infants as well as many non-human animals (particularly primates) are born with four "hard-coded" core reasoning systems:

- A core object system which identifies cohesive and continuous objects (as opposed to say liquids or heaps), enables tracking of such objects, and causes us to expect that objects will follow some specific properties: they will preserve their boundaries, move as a unit, interact with one another only through contact, and be set into motion only when acted on through direct contact. Has some signature limitations, such that we can only attend to about 3-4 objects at the same time.

- A core number system which allows for numerical comparisons, such as by saying that a set with thirty stimuli is larger than a set with ten. Unlike the core object system, the core number system is nonmodal and not limited to contiguous objects; it can compare the number of e.g. sounds or actions.

- A core agency system that causes us to intuitively treat humans, animals, and other things exhibiting signs of agency as being different from objects, liquids, or heaps. Things that are classified as agents are expected to exhibit autonomous, goal-directed behavior; and they will activate social behavior, such as when an infant imitates their actions.

- A core geometric system which represents space and environment according to geometric properties such as distance and angle, while ignoring non-geometric properties such as color and smell. Does things such as constructing perspective-invariant representations of geometric layouts, or predicting how objects will appear when turned around or look at from a different perspective.

Now one particularly intriguing hypothesis which the book mentioned was that the intuitive human belief in souls or consciousness continuing after death, may come from the Agent and Object systems having different classification criteria. In particular, objects are assumed to only move when acted upon, while agents are assumed to exhibit independent, goal-directed motion.

Apparently the psychologist Paul Bloom has proposed that seeing or thinking about a human causes us to perceive there being two entities in the same space: a body (object) and a soul (agent). While the book did not explicitly mention this, this would also explain the origin of many intuitions about free will and mind-body dualism. Under this model, the object system would classify the body as something that only moves when being ordered to by an external force, requiring an agent in the form of a mind/soul being the "unmoved mover" that initiates the movement. One could also speculate on this being the intuition that motivated Aristotle's unmoved movers in the celestial spheres, to say nothing about all the different creation myths, if we have an inborn intuition for movement requiring an agent to set it going.

(Further reading: Cognitive Pluralism cites Spelke & Kinzler (2007), Core Knowledge [ https://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic1148010.files/Spelke%20E.%20S.%20and%20Kinzler_%20K.%20D.%202007.pdf ] as well as Paul Bloom's 2004 book "Descartes' Baby: How the Science of Child Development Explains What Makes Us Human", which based on its title sounds absolutely fascinating and which I probably want to read soon.)___

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2017-05-06 11:40:15 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

___

2017-05-05 09:16:28 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 3 +1s; )Open 

"I think the right approach is to build the issue [beneficial AI] directly into how practitioners define what they do. No one in civil engineering talks about “building bridges that don’t fall down.” They just call it “building bridges.” Essentially all fusion researchers work on containment as a matter of course; uncontained fusion reactions just aren’t useful. Right now we have to say “AI that is probably beneficial,” but eventually that will just be called “AI.” [We must] redirect the field away from its current goal of building pure intelligence for its own sake, regardless of the associated objectives and their consequences "

"I think the right approach is to build the issue [beneficial AI] directly into how practitioners define what they do. No one in civil engineering talks about “building bridges that don’t fall down.” They just call it “building bridges.” Essentially all fusion researchers work on containment as a matter of course; uncontained fusion reactions just aren’t useful. Right now we have to say “AI that is probably beneficial,” but eventually that will just be called “AI.” [We must] redirect the field away from its current goal of building pure intelligence for its own sake, regardless of the associated objectives and their consequences "___

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2017-05-03 01:11:41 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

> He may have been thinking about the case of a Wisconsin man, Eric L. Loomis, who was sentenced to six years in prison based in part on a private company’s proprietary software. Mr. Loomis says his right to due process was violated by a judge’s consideration of a report generated by the software’s secret algorithm, one Mr. Loomis was unable to inspect or challenge. [...] 

> The report in Mr. Loomis’s case was produced by a product called Compas, sold by Northpointe Inc. It included a series of bar charts that assessed the risk that Mr. Loomis would commit more crimes. [...] 

> Mr. Loomis “was free to question the assessment and explain its possible flaws.” But it is a little hard to see how he could do that without access to the algorithm itself.

> The company that markets Compas says its formula is a trade secret.

> “The keyto our product is th... more »

> He may have been thinking about the case of a Wisconsin man, Eric L. Loomis, who was sentenced to six years in prison based in part on a private company’s proprietary software. Mr. Loomis says his right to due process was violated by a judge’s consideration of a report generated by the software’s secret algorithm, one Mr. Loomis was unable to inspect or challenge. [...] 

> The report in Mr. Loomis’s case was produced by a product called Compas, sold by Northpointe Inc. It included a series of bar charts that assessed the risk that Mr. Loomis would commit more crimes. [...] 

> Mr. Loomis “was free to question the assessment and explain its possible flaws.” But it is a little hard to see how he could do that without access to the algorithm itself.

> The company that markets Compas says its formula is a trade secret.

> “The key to our product is the algorithms, and they’re proprietary,” one of its executives said last year. “We’ve created them, and we don’t release them because it’s certainly a core piece of our business.”___

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2017-05-03 01:05:00 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

> ... the idea that expert actions are in a placid state of flow – a state in which things seem to fall into place on their own – is a myth. [...] 

> Csikszentmihalyi’s research suggests that flow is conducive to optimal experience. But it doesn’t tell us anything about whether it is conducive to optimal performance. So look for flow when you want to feel better, but not necessarily when you want to do better. This doesn’t mean that performing is always unpleasant [...] Still, enjoyable performances are not necessarily the best performances. Relinquishing the quest for pleasure is sometimes the only way to embark on that never-ending path to perfection. [...] 

> Why is the idea that optimal performance occurs in a state of flow so widespread, if it’s wrong? We’ve come across one reason: as Castiglione and every ballet dancer knows, thought and effortcan be externally invisib... more »

> ... the idea that expert actions are in a placid state of flow – a state in which things seem to fall into place on their own – is a myth. [...] 

> Csikszentmihalyi’s research suggests that flow is conducive to optimal experience. But it doesn’t tell us anything about whether it is conducive to optimal performance. So look for flow when you want to feel better, but not necessarily when you want to do better. This doesn’t mean that performing is always unpleasant [...] Still, enjoyable performances are not necessarily the best performances. Relinquishing the quest for pleasure is sometimes the only way to embark on that never-ending path to perfection. [...] 

> Why is the idea that optimal performance occurs in a state of flow so widespread, if it’s wrong? We’ve come across one reason: as Castiglione and every ballet dancer knows, thought and effort can be externally invisible. We watch the NBA basketball player Stephen Curry’s 30-foot shots arc through the air and assume that his actions are second nature. But it is a mistake to infer ease from a lack of apparent effort.___

2017-05-02 23:14:21 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

> I believe that the ability to expect that conversation partners are well-intentioned by default is a public good. An extremely valuable public good. When criticism turns to attacking the intentions of others, I perceive that to be burning the commons. Communities often have to deal with actors that in fact have ill intentions, and in that case it's often worth the damage to prevent an even greater exploitation by malicious actors. But damage is damage in either case, and I suspect that young communities are prone to destroying this particular commons based on false premises. [...] 

> I also want to explicitly disclaim arguments of the form "person X is gaining [status|power|prestige] through their actions, therefore they are untrustworthy and have bad intentions". My models of human psychology allow for people to possess good intentions while executing adaptationsthat i... more »

> I believe that the ability to expect that conversation partners are well-intentioned by default is a public good. An extremely valuable public good. When criticism turns to attacking the intentions of others, I perceive that to be burning the commons. Communities often have to deal with actors that in fact have ill intentions, and in that case it's often worth the damage to prevent an even greater exploitation by malicious actors. But damage is damage in either case, and I suspect that young communities are prone to destroying this particular commons based on false premises. [...] 

> I also want to explicitly disclaim arguments of the form "person X is gaining [status|power|prestige] through their actions, therefore they are untrustworthy and have bad intentions". My models of human psychology allow for people to possess good intentions while executing adaptations that increase their status, influence, or popularity. My models also don’t deem people poor allies merely on account of their having instinctual motivations to achieve status, power, or prestige, any more than I deem people poor allies if they care about things like money, art, or good food. [...] 

> One more clarification: some of my friends have insinuated (but not said outright as far as I know) that the execution of actions with bad consequences is just as bad as having ill intentions, and we should treat the two similarly. I think this is very wrong: eroding trust in the judgement or discernment of an individual is very different from eroding trust in whether or not they are pursuing the common good. If I believe your reasoning is mistaken is some particular domain, we can have a reasonable discussion in which we search for the source of our disagreement and attempt to mutually move closer to the truth. But if one of us starts believing that the other is acting adversarially, the whole framework of discourse breaks down, and we frequently can't get  _anywhere_. In my experience, that sort of trust breakdown is often irreparable. [...] 

> I think it is extremely easy for humans to forget everything they have in common, and start bitter  feuds over minor differences. If you and I ever have a disagreement, no matter how bitter, then I want you to know that I regularly remind myself of all the things we do agree on, in attempts to put our differences into perspective.

___

2017-05-02 20:06:33 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

Cute: did you believe yesterday that 119+6=125?

> Sometimes, when we speak of someone ”having a belief,” we mean that she is having a psychological episode in which she is mentally affirming something. The detective sorts through the evidence and suddenly concludes, ”’The butler did it!” and we report this by saying that she formed a belief that the butler did it. But we also speak of people ”believing” things that they have never thought of at all. Suppose I ask you if you believe that 119 + 6 = 125, or that dogs have kidneys. You easily answer yes; and of course in the process of thinking about it, you probably actually considered the proposition in question and mentally endorsed it. But suppose I ask you whether you believed yesterday that 119 + 6 = 125, or that dogs have kidneys. When I present this question in a classroom, about half of my students tend to say yes and theother half no.... more »

Cute: did you believe yesterday that 119+6=125?

> Sometimes, when we speak of someone ”having a belief,” we mean that she is having a psychological episode in which she is mentally affirming something. The detective sorts through the evidence and suddenly concludes, ”’The butler did it!” and we report this by saying that she formed a belief that the butler did it. But we also speak of people ”believing” things that they have never thought of at all. Suppose I ask you if you believe that 119 + 6 = 125, or that dogs have kidneys. You easily answer yes; and of course in the process of thinking about it, you probably actually considered the proposition in question and mentally endorsed it. But suppose I ask you whether you believed yesterday that 119 + 6 = 125, or that dogs have kidneys. When I present this question in a classroom, about half of my students tend to say yes and the other half no. I deliberately choose questions that no one is likely to have explicitly thought about before to eliminate the possibility that those who say yes are reporting a previous explicit endorsement. Those who say no probably do so because they are restricting the word ’belief’ to things we have actually thought about and endorsed. But those who say yes are also using the word ’belief’ in a perfectly standard way, to report things we are implicitly committed to or things we are readily disposed to assent to when prompted. And by my reckoning more often than not, philosophers tend to use ‘belief’ in this broader way, to include what are some times distinguished as “dispositional beliefs.” 

-- Stephen Horst: Cognitive Pluralism ___

2017-05-02 19:04:40 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

I wish they didn't have them, of course, but there's something relieving in your friends having mental health problems too. Then you can just go "hey can we change plans, I've got random anxiety for no reason and small things inexplicably cause me totally disproportionate amounts of stress" and have them reply "oh ok hugs", without you needing to come up with some more-socially-acceptable excuse. 

I wish they didn't have them, of course, but there's something relieving in your friends having mental health problems too. Then you can just go "hey can we change plans, I've got random anxiety for no reason and small things inexplicably cause me totally disproportionate amounts of stress" and have them reply "oh ok hugs", without you needing to come up with some more-socially-acceptable excuse. ___

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2017-05-02 18:22:40 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )Open 

> Getting feedback that seems just plain wrong can be isolating, painful, and maddening. [...] The first thing to do is nothing. Don’t decide whether or not you agree with the feedback…yet. This isn’t easy. But you need to give yourself time to more clearly understand the feedback before you accept or reject it. [...]

> In order to decide whether to accept or reject the feedback, we automatically scan for what’s wrong with it: who gave it to us, why we suspect they gave it to us, when, where, or how they gave it to us, why it isn’t true or wouldn’t work. There are two problems with “wrong-spotting”: first, you will always be able to find something wrong with the feedback; and second, you’ll dismiss it too quickly — before you actually understand what the feedback giver is trying to tell you.

> So dig deeper. Most feedback arrives in the form of a vaguelabel: “You need to... more »

> Getting feedback that seems just plain wrong can be isolating, painful, and maddening. [...] The first thing to do is nothing. Don’t decide whether or not you agree with the feedback…yet. This isn’t easy. But you need to give yourself time to more clearly understand the feedback before you accept or reject it. [...]

> In order to decide whether to accept or reject the feedback, we automatically scan for what’s wrong with it: who gave it to us, why we suspect they gave it to us, when, where, or how they gave it to us, why it isn’t true or wouldn’t work. There are two problems with “wrong-spotting”: first, you will always be able to find something wrong with the feedback; and second, you’ll dismiss it too quickly — before you actually understand what the feedback giver is trying to tell you.

> So dig deeper. Most feedback arrives in the form of a vague label: “You need to step it up,” “Show more leadership,” “Think more strategically,” or “Be more creative.” It’s easy to jump to what these labels mean to us, and assume we know what they mean to the feedback giver. Yet these labels are — at best — loose approximations of what they are trying to say. [...] [If given feedback like 'I need you to be more creative',] ask questions like:

> * When you say “creative,” can you say more about what you mean?
> * Can you be a bit more specific about particular times or instances I wasn’t creative?
> * Can you give examples of what “creative” would feel like to you? What specifically are you suggesting I do differently? [...]

> ...always assume givers [of feedback] will need help articulating what they mean. And that the way to help them — and yourself — is by asking clear and curious questions without a defensive tone.___

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2017-05-02 10:15:54 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

> ... senior staff at MIRI have reassessed their views on how far off artificial general intelligence (AGI) is and concluded that shorter timelines are more likely than they were previously thinking. A few lines of recent evidence point in this direction, such as [...] 

> AI research is becoming more visibly exciting and well-funded. [...] AGI is attracting more scholarly attention as an idea, and is the stated goal of top AI groups like DeepMind, OpenAI, and FAIR. [...] Research groups associated with AGI are showing much clearer external signs of profitability. [...] AI successes like AlphaGo indicate that it’s easier to outperform top humans in domains like Go (without any new conceptual breakthroughs) than might have been expected. [...] 

> There’s no consensus among MIRI researchers on how long timelines are, and our aggregated estimate putsmedium-to-high probab... more »

> ... senior staff at MIRI have reassessed their views on how far off artificial general intelligence (AGI) is and concluded that shorter timelines are more likely than they were previously thinking. A few lines of recent evidence point in this direction, such as [...] 

> AI research is becoming more visibly exciting and well-funded. [...] AGI is attracting more scholarly attention as an idea, and is the stated goal of top AI groups like DeepMind, OpenAI, and FAIR. [...] Research groups associated with AGI are showing much clearer external signs of profitability. [...] AI successes like AlphaGo indicate that it’s easier to outperform top humans in domains like Go (without any new conceptual breakthroughs) than might have been expected. [...] 

> There’s no consensus among MIRI researchers on how long timelines are, and our aggregated estimate puts medium-to-high probability on scenarios in which the research community hasn’t developed AGI by, e.g., 2035. On average, however, research staff now assign moderately higher probability to AGI’s being developed before 2035 than we did a year or two ago. This has a few implications for our strategy:

> 1. Our relationships with current key players in AGI safety and capabilities play a larger role in our strategic thinking. Short-timeline scenarios reduce the expected number of important new players who will enter the space before we hit AGI, and increase how much influence current players are likely to have.

> 2. Our research priorities are somewhat different, since shorter timelines change what research paths are likely to pay out before we hit AGI, and also concentrate our probability mass more on scenarios where AGI shares various features in common with present-day machine learning systems.
___

2017-05-01 11:19:31 (5 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

I've seen several long-time professional authors remark something along the lines of them editing their manuscripts a lot more after they switched from typewriters to computers, simply because it's so much easier on a computer. What I haven't seen is any of them really reflect on whether this has improved the quality of their writing overall.

I wonder how you could try to study this (the impact of computers and easy editing on the impact of quality of writing), given how subjective "the quality of writing" is. At least I haven't heard anyone make the claim that there would be a distinctive increase in quality in writing from the last few decades compared to earlier, nor have I observed such a difference myself. (though I have felt that the quality of the best fiction does tend to gradually get better the closer you get to the modern day, but that looks more like a... more »

I've seen several long-time professional authors remark something along the lines of them editing their manuscripts a lot more after they switched from typewriters to computers, simply because it's so much easier on a computer. What I haven't seen is any of them really reflect on whether this has improved the quality of their writing overall.

I wonder how you could try to study this (the impact of computers and easy editing on the impact of quality of writing), given how subjective "the quality of writing" is. At least I haven't heard anyone make the claim that there would be a distinctive increase in quality in writing from the last few decades compared to earlier, nor have I observed such a difference myself. (though I have felt that the quality of the best fiction does tend to gradually get better the closer you get to the modern day, but that looks more like a gradual accumulation of improved storytelling techniques than any sharp discontinuity) ___

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2017-04-30 13:52:32 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

"Back when I was reading LOTR in Russian, I remember fans arguing over the issue of whether Aragorn wore pants (or rather, using the British term, trousers), or not - what I later learned was a major topic of discussion in Soviet Tolkien fandom. The typical argument for "not" was that the book text never mentions pants"

"Back when I was reading LOTR in Russian, I remember fans arguing over the issue of whether Aragorn wore pants (or rather, using the British term, trousers), or not - what I later learned was a major topic of discussion in Soviet Tolkien fandom. The typical argument for "not" was that the book text never mentions pants"___

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2017-04-30 13:36:09 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

Pulp-era (1920s-1950s) science fiction wasn't any more about optimistic futures than today's science fiction is:

> Optimistic futures were always, always vastly outnumbered by end of the world stories with mutants, Frankenstein creations that turn against us, murderous robot rebellions, terrifying alien invasions, and atomic horror. People don’t change. Then as now, we were more interested in hearing about how it could all go wrong.

> To quote H.L. Gold, editor of Galaxy Science Fiction, in 1952:

> > “Over 90% of stories submitted to Galaxy Science Fiction still nag away at atomic, hydrogen and bacteriological war, the post atomic world, reversion to barbarism, mutant children killed because they have only ten toes and fingers instead of twelve….the temptation is strong to write, ‘look, fellers, the end isn’t here yet.’”

Othercommon myths:... more »

Pulp-era (1920s-1950s) science fiction wasn't any more about optimistic futures than today's science fiction is:

> Optimistic futures were always, always vastly outnumbered by end of the world stories with mutants, Frankenstein creations that turn against us, murderous robot rebellions, terrifying alien invasions, and atomic horror. People don’t change. Then as now, we were more interested in hearing about how it could all go wrong.

> To quote H.L. Gold, editor of Galaxy Science Fiction, in 1952:

> > “Over 90% of stories submitted to Galaxy Science Fiction still nag away at atomic, hydrogen and bacteriological war, the post atomic world, reversion to barbarism, mutant children killed because they have only ten toes and fingers instead of twelve….the temptation is strong to write, ‘look, fellers, the end isn’t here yet.’”

Other common myths:

> “Pulp scifi often featured muscular, large-chinned, womanizing main characters.”
> “Pulp Era Scifi were mainly action/adventure stories with good vs. evil.”
> “Racism was endemic to the pulps.”
> “Pulp scifi writers in the early days were indifferent to scientific reality and played fast and loose with science.”___

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2017-04-30 12:26:31 (1 comments; 5 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

> There's something going on inside the intelligence communities in at least two countries, and we have no idea what it is. [...] One: someone, probably a country's intelligence organization, is dumping massive amounts of cyberattack tools belonging to the NSA onto the Internet. Two: someone else, or maybe the same someone, is doing the same thing to the CIA.

> Three: in March, NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett described how the NSA penetrated the computer networks of a Russian intelligence agency and was able to monitor them as they attacked the U.S. State Department in 2014. Even more explicitly, a U.S. ally—my guess is the U.K.—was not only hacking the Russian intelligence agency's computers, but also the surveillance cameras inside their building. "They [the U.S. ally] monitored the [Russian] hackers as they maneuvered inside the U.S. systems and as they walkedin ... more »

> There's something going on inside the intelligence communities in at least two countries, and we have no idea what it is. [...] One: someone, probably a country's intelligence organization, is dumping massive amounts of cyberattack tools belonging to the NSA onto the Internet. Two: someone else, or maybe the same someone, is doing the same thing to the CIA.

> Three: in March, NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett described how the NSA penetrated the computer networks of a Russian intelligence agency and was able to monitor them as they attacked the U.S. State Department in 2014. Even more explicitly, a U.S. ally—my guess is the U.K.—was not only hacking the Russian intelligence agency's computers, but also the surveillance cameras inside their building. "They [the U.S. ally] monitored the [Russian] hackers as they maneuvered inside the U.S. systems and as they walked in and out of the workspace, and were able to see faces, the officials said." [...]

> So Russia—or someone else—steals these secrets, and presumably uses them to both defend its own networks and hack other countries while deflecting blame for a couple of years. For it to publish now means that the intelligence value of the information is now lower than the embarrassment value to the NSA and CIA. This could be because the US figured out that its tools were hacked, and maybe even by whom; which would make the tools less valuable against U.S. government targets, although still valuable against third parties.

> The message that comes with publishing seems clear to me: "We are so deep into your business that we don't care if we burn these few-years-old capabilities, as well as the fact that we have them. There's just nothing you can do about it." It's bragging.

> Which is exactly the same thing Ledgett is doing to the Russians. Maybe the capabilities he talked about are long gone, so there's nothing lost in exposing sources and methods. Or maybe he too is bragging: saying to the Russians that he doesn't care if they know. He's certainly bragging to every other country that is paying attention to his remarks. (He may be bluffing, of course, hoping to convince others that the U.S. has intelligence capabilities it doesn't.)

> What happens when intelligence agencies go to war with each other and don't tell the rest of us? I think there's something going on between the US and Russia that the public is just seeing pieces of. We have no idea why, or where it will go next, and can only speculate.___

2017-04-30 12:14:28 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

> If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of Resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own. Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others. If they speak at all, it is to offer encouragement. Watch yourself. Of all the manifestations of Resistance, most only harm ourselves. Criticism and cruelty harm others as well.

— Steven Pressfield, War of Art

> If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of Resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own. Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others. If they speak at all, it is to offer encouragement. Watch yourself. Of all the manifestations of Resistance, most only harm ourselves. Criticism and cruelty harm others as well.

— Steven Pressfield, War of Art___

2017-04-30 12:10:15 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

Interesting: reminds me of the Chinese concept of wu-wei. I feel like trying to switch from an authoritarian style of managing the subconscious to a cooperative one, without overshooting and ending up at the uncontrolled style, has been a big project of mine for the last few years.

> Intent is a kind of decision making that directs awareness as well as activity. It is a powerful way to manage your ku [a concept in Hawaiian traditional folk psychology, roughly corresponding to the subconscious], with tremendous effects on health, happiness, and success when used properly. Management theory recognizes three main styles of operation: authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire. These also happen to describe the three main ways that people deal with their own ku. To make our discussion more clear we’ll call them controlling, cooperative, and uncontrolled styles.

> When you intendt... more »

Interesting: reminds me of the Chinese concept of wu-wei. I feel like trying to switch from an authoritarian style of managing the subconscious to a cooperative one, without overshooting and ending up at the uncontrolled style, has been a big project of mine for the last few years.

> Intent is a kind of decision making that directs awareness as well as activity. It is a powerful way to manage your ku [a concept in Hawaiian traditional folk psychology, roughly corresponding to the subconscious], with tremendous effects on health, happiness, and success when used properly. Management theory recognizes three main styles of operation: authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire. These also happen to describe the three main ways that people deal with their own ku. To make our discussion more clear we’ll call them controlling, cooperative, and uncontrolled styles.

> When you intend to walk across the room, the intention is followed by awareness, which is followed by action. A controlling style of ku management will involve the lono [roughly, the conscious mind] constantly monitoring and correcting the ku to make sure it doesn’t do anything wrong. The usual effect of such control is stiff and awkward movement or, at worst, clumsy and spastic movement (if there is any movement at all). The cooperative style involves the lono holding the intent and trusting the ku to do what it already knows how to do. The usual effect of this is smooth movement or, at best, movement that is fluid and graceful. The uncontrolled style usually results in never getting to the other side of the room at all because too many pleasurable or additional important things distract the attention. When you are speaking to someone with the intention of expressing something definite, the ku searches its memory and in a miraculous fashion that no one can yet explain, it vibrates the vocal cords and moves the jaw, tongue, and lips in such a way that more or less meaningful sounds are produced. A controlling lono interferes with the process by trying to make sure that the right words are said in the right way and usually creates havoc in the form of halting speech with a lot of “uh”s or “ya know”s or even stuttering. The cooperative lono holds the intent and lets the ku do its thing, which often produces spontaneous humor and unexpectedly good insights or phrases. The uncontrolling lono lets the ku wander off the subject a lot or even speak gibberish. What the ku knows it knows well, and that includes everything from how to heal itself to how to perform skills it has learned. I heard not long ago that hang gliders are designed to fly perfectly every time. The only accidents in hang gliding are caused by overcontrol on the part of fearful human beings. As we shall see shortly, it is the lono that generates fear. The ku is very much like a perfectly designed hang glider. Overcontrolled, it will not function properly; under cooperative guidance it will go and do whatever you want; without direction it will go wherever the currents of life take it.

-- King, Serge Kahili. Urban Shaman (Kindle Locations 565-586). Touchstone. Kindle Edition. ___

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2017-04-29 19:13:24 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 0 +1s; )Open 

I guess Carcassonne has reached the point where, like Monopoly, it's popular enough that you can reprint it with any theme - like Star Wars or The Ark of the Covenant - regardless of whether that makes any sense at all.

I guess Carcassonne has reached the point where, like Monopoly, it's popular enough that you can reprint it with any theme - like Star Wars or The Ark of the Covenant - regardless of whether that makes any sense at all.___

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2017-04-29 19:10:45 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 3 +1s; )Open 

> Rassim Khelifa from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, witnessed the behaviour for the first time in the moorland hawker dragonfly (Aeshna juncea). While collecting their larvae in the Swiss Alps, he watched a female crash-dive to the ground while being pursued by a male.

> The female then lay motionless on her back. Her suitor soon flew away, and the female took off once the coast was clear.

> Rassim Khelifa from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, witnessed the behaviour for the first time in the moorland hawker dragonfly (Aeshna juncea). While collecting their larvae in the Swiss Alps, he watched a female crash-dive to the ground while being pursued by a male.

> The female then lay motionless on her back. Her suitor soon flew away, and the female took off once the coast was clear.___

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