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## Kaj Sotala

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### Activity

#### Average numbers for the latest posts (max. 50 posts, posted within the last 4 weeks)

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Top posts in the last 50 posts

2017-02-11 15:24:55 (11 comments; 1 reshares; 3 +1s; )

> The Sims 1 released in the year 2000. [...] two males or two females could not get married. They could kiss, they could slow dance, they could date, they could have sex [...], but they could not get married.

> The Sims 2 released in the year 2004. [...] Gay Sims were finally allowed to get married [...] they didn't actually call it marriage. Instead, when two males or two females chose to get married, they had a "Joined Union". The amount of points given to the sim for having a joined union was less than that for sims having a marriage. [...]

> The Sims 3 released in the year 2009. [...] gay sims can finally get married. There is no more to the system to mention- they can get married, the point values are the same, there's nothing more complicated about it. It's just finally aligned completely with heterosexula sims getting married.[...]
more »

### Most reshares: 6

2017-02-14 16:38:52 (0 comments; 6 reshares; 7 +1s; )

> “They [the Trump campaign] were using 40-50,000 different variants of ad every day that were continuously measuring responses and then adapting and evolving based on that response,” Martin Moore, director of Kings College’s Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power, told The Guardian in early December. “It’s all done completely opaquely and they can spend as much money as they like on particular locations because you can focus on a five-mile radius.”

> Where traditional pollsters might ask a person outright how they plan to vote, Analytica relies not on what they say but what they do, tracking their online movements and interests and serving up multivariate ads designed to change a person’s behavior by preying on individual personality traits.

> “For example,” Nix wrote in an op-ed last year about Analytica’s work on the Cruzcampaign, ”our issues mod... more »

### Most plusones: 9

2017-02-19 11:29:17 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 9 +1s; )

> Spiritual awakening is frequently described as a journey to the top of a mountain. We leave our attachments and our worldliness behind and slowly make our way to the top. At the peak we have transcended all pain. The only problem with this metaphor is that we leave all others behind. Their suffering continues, unrelieved by our personal escape.

> On the journey of the warrior-bodhisattva, the path goes down, not up, as if the mountain pointed toward the earth instead of the sky. Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move toward turbulence and doubt however we can. We explore the reality and unpredictability of insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away. If it takes years, if it takes lifetimes, we let it be as it is.

> At our own pace, without speed or aggression, we move down and down and down. With us move millions of others, our companions... more »

Latest 50 posts

2017-02-27 19:09:04 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 0 +1s; )

> Monday, 13 April 2015 was a typical day in modern British politics. An Oxford University graduate in philosophy, politics and economics (PPE), Ed Miliband, launched the Labour party’s general election manifesto. It was examined by the BBC’s political editor, Oxford PPE graduate Nick Robinson, by the BBC’s economics editor, Oxford PPE graduate Robert Peston, and by the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Oxford PPE graduate Paul Johnson. It was criticised by the prime minister, Oxford PPE graduate David Cameron. It was defended by the Labour shadow chancellor, Oxford PPE graduate Ed Balls.

> Elsewhere in the country, with the election three weeks away, the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, Oxford PPE graduate Danny Alexander, was preparing to visit Kingston and Surbiton, a vulnerable London seat held by a fellow Lib Dem minister, Oxford PPE graduate EdDavey... more »

2017-02-26 21:55:22 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 2 +1s; )

<3﻿

2017-02-25 01:02:54 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )

> Though in my mid-forties, I’m still in touch with that awkward boy who often felt trapped in the unpredictable currents of teenage experiences. I can’t count the times sex, drugs, and alcohol came rushing into my young world; I wasn’t ready for any of it, but I didn’t know how to escape and, at the same time, not castrate myself socially. I still recall my first time drinking beer at a friend’s house in junior high school—I hated it, but I felt cornered. As an adult, that now seems silly, but it was my reality at the time. “Peer pressure” was a frivolous term for an often silent, but very real thing; and I certainly couldn’t call my parents and ask them to rescue me. I wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place. As a teen, forcing down alcohol seemed a whole lot easier than offering myself up for punishment, endless nagging and interrogation, and the potential end offreedom as I knew i... more »

2017-02-23 22:35:51 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )

> A tax is charged on chocolate-covered biscuits, but not on cakes. The manufacturer [of Jaffa Cakes], McVities, had always categorised them as cakes and to boost their revenue the tax authorities wanted them recategorised as biscuits.

> A legal case was fought in front of a brilliant adjudicator, Mr D C Potter. For McVities, this produced a sweet result. The Jaffa Cake has both cake-like qualities and biscuit-like qualities, but Mr Potter's verdict was that, on balance, a Jaffa Cake is a cake.

> He examined a dozen possible criteria. There was, for example, the name. They are called Jaffa Cakes, not Jaffa Biscuits. This, Mr Potter concluded, was a trifling consideration, though he noted that Jaffa Cakes are more biscuit than cake in several ways. They are packaged like biscuits, and they are marketed like biscuits: they are usually found in the biscuit aisle in shops.... more »

2017-02-23 21:45:48 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )

> Williams asks: What can an ethical theory do, if we are able to build a convincing case for one? He is skeptical about the force of ethical considerations and reminds us that even if we were to have a justified ethical theory, the person in question might not be concerned about it. Even if we could prove to some amoralists that what they are about to do is (a) against some universal ethical standard, (b) is detrimental to their own well-being, and/or (c) is against the demands of rationality or internal coherence, they still have the choice of whether to care about this or not. They can choose to act even if they know that what they are about to do is against some standard that they believe in. Robert Nozick—whom Williams quotes—describes this as follows: “Suppose that we show that some X he [the immoral man] holds or accepts or does commits him to behaving morally. He now must give up at leastone o... more »

2017-02-23 19:31:10 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 3 +1s; )

A thing you'd think I'd already have figured way earlier, but only became obvious to me after this latest breakup, is that there are stages of grief (other than the anger-denial-etc. ones).

A number of times, I've felt like I'd already gotten through the pain... Only for it to come up again, with me getting increasingly frustrated - "didn't I process this already?"

Fact is, I think I did. It's just that the way we talk about grief is a little misleading. Grief is not one big monolithic block that you just "get over" as one; rather there may be a number of different issues that are painful. They are separate but tangled up with each other, and you aren't truly "over it" until you have processed them all.

Things that I've processed so far are at least:

- coming to accept that this would never... more »

2017-02-23 19:25:06 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 7 +1s; )

"The library belongs to everyone.

In the morning there's more quiet,
in the afternoon there's more schoolchildren,
in the evening it's a living room for everybody."﻿

2017-02-23 12:55:44 (5 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )

> Ever since Kant, moral philosophers have been more or less animated by the mission of discovering inescapable law-like rules that would provide a binding justification for morality. Recently, however, many have started to question (a) whether this is possible and (b) what, after all, this project could achieve. An alternative vision of the task of moral philosophy starts from the pragmatist idea that philosophizing begins and ends in human experiencing. It leads to a view where morality is seen as a “social technology” that aims to make living together possible, and strengthens people's capability to live a good life within a society. The role of moral philosophy is, accordingly, to develop our moral tools further. Moral philosophers become ethical engineers who use their expertise in ethical topics to criticize existing “moral technology” and construct new concepts, tools, and theoriesthat be... more »

2017-02-22 23:05:16 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )

> A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. [...]

> The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.

> If these planets orbited a larger, brighter star they would be fried to a crisp. But TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in “the habitable zone,” that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive.

> The researchers callthe... more »

2017-02-22 22:05:53 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )

When the AI wants to take over the world, it's going to release the 2070 equivalent of Meitu or pix2pix and allow us to donate it all the computing power it needs for its takeover plan. In the meanwhile, we are busy sharing all the funny full-immersion VR clips it generates for us as a background process.﻿

2017-02-22 17:05:52 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )

> I believe that if we develop strong AI in some reasonably short timeframe (less than a hundred years from now or something like that), it will be due to some conceptual breakthrough, and not merely due to continuing to scale up and incrementally modify existing deep learning algorithms.

> To be clear on what I mean by a “breakthrough”, I’m thinking of things like neural networks (1957) and backpropagation (1986) [ETA: actually dates back to 1974, from Paul Werbos’ thesis] as major machine learning advances, and types of neural network architecture such as LSTMs (1997), convolutional neural nets (1998), or neural Turing machines (2016) as minor advances. [...]

> Inductive reasoning is the process of making predictions from data. If you’ve seen 999 men who are mortal, Bayesian reasoning tells you that the 1000th man is also likely to be mortal. Deductive reasoningis the pr... more »

2017-02-22 16:51:33 (2 comments; 1 reshares; 4 +1s; )

This site lets you draw the sketch of a cat, shoe, or a handbag, and then have a neural network color it in. Results vary, depending on how good your sketch was.﻿

2017-02-22 00:45:36 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 1 +1s; )

> FOR AN ASPIRING BODHISATTVA, the essential practice is to cultivate maitri, or loving-kindness. The Shambhala teachings speak of “placing our fearful mind in the cradle of loving-kindness.” Another image for maitri is that of a mother bird who protects and cares for her young until they are strong enough to fly away. People sometimes ask, “Who am I in this image—the mother or the chick?” The answer is we’re both: both the loving mother and those ugly little chicks. It’s easy to identify with the babies—blind, raw, and desperate for attention. We are a poignant mixture of something that isn’t all that beautiful and yet is dearly loved. Whether this is our attitude toward ourselves or toward others, it is the key to learning how to love. We stay with ourselves and others when we’re screaming for food and have no feathers and also when we are more grown up and more appealing by worldlystandards.
... more »

2017-02-22 00:44:54 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )

When I'm sick, I use that as an excu... reason to order food.

As a result, my Pizza Online order history is a pretty reliable record of the times when I've been sick.﻿

2017-02-21 19:20:41 (7 comments; 1 reshares; 0 +1s; )

> It was once thought that when a reasonably wealthy country achieved democracy, it would almost certainly maintain it. No more.

> Democratic backsliding is far less rare than political scientists used to believe. In a recent academic paper, we identified 37 instances in 25 different countries in the postwar period in which democratic quality declined significantly (though a fully authoritarian regime didn’t emerge). That is, roughly one out of eight countries experienced measurable decay in the quality of their democratic institutions.

> Scholars used to argue that democracy, once attained in a fairly wealthy state, would become a permanent fixture. As the late Juan Linz put it, democracy would become “the only game in town.” That belief turned out to be merely hopeful, not a reality.

> As a result, the global trend for democracies — the other categoriesbeing p... more »

2017-02-21 15:40:47 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 3 +1s; )

> The head of Google DeepMind is worried that technology companies and individuals will fail to co-ordinate on the development of artificial superintelligence — defined by Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom as "an intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills."

> DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, whose company is arguably at the front of the race to develop human-level artificial intelligence (AI), said at The Future of Life's Beneficial AI conference in January that he wants (and expects) superintelligence to be created.

> But it's important that technology companies and individuals are open and transparent about their AI research, according to Hassabis.

> When superintelligence is close to being developed, the Cambridge graduate and chessg... more »

2017-02-21 15:04:10 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 8 +1s; )

> I was a co-author of a paper back in 2007 in the BMJ on medical myths. The first myth was that people should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. This paper got more media attention (even in The Times) than pretty much any other research I’ve ever done.

> It made no difference. When, two years later, we published a book on medical myths that once again debunked the idea that we need eight glasses of water a day, I thought it would persuade people to stop worrying. I was wrong again.

> Many people believe that the source of this myth was a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board recommendation that said people need about 2.5 liters of water a day. But they ignored the sentence that followed closely behind. It read, “Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.”

> Water is present in fruits and vegetables. It’s in juice, it’s in beer,it’s even... more »

2017-02-21 14:55:22 (2 comments; 1 reshares; 7 +1s; )

> My younger daughter is something of a handful, so I’ve been thinking a lot about things like obedience, virtue, loyalty, and authority lately. These are often associated with martial arts training, so I thought I’d share my views here.

> I think it is important to distinguish between skills and virtues. Skills are abilities cultivated by practice, which are valued because of what they enable you to do, and should be deployed when its advantageous to do so. Virtues are inherent characteristics, which can be deepened or resisted through practice, but are considered good in and of themselves. A lot of trouble comes from confusing the two.

> For example, obedience is not a virtue, but it is a very useful skill. A person who cannot behave obediently when necessary gets into all sorts of unnecessary trouble, and is excluded from all sorts of beneficialact... more »

2017-02-19 19:04:53 (4 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )

> The older generation of Trump supporters the press often focuses on, the so called “forgotten white working class”, are in this sense easier to explain since they fit into the schema of a 1950s-style electorate. Like the factory workers in Factotum, the baby boomers were promised pensions and prosperity, but received instead simply the promises. Here the narrative is simple. The workers were promised something and someone (the politicians? the economy? the system itself?) never delivered. Their horse never came in. [...]

> [Younger] Trump supporters hold a different sort of ideology, not one of “when will my horse come in”, but a trolling self-effacing, “I know my horse will never come in”. That is to say, younger Trump supporters know they are handing their money to someone who will never place their bets — only his own — because, after all, it’s plain asday there was never any other ... more »

2017-02-19 12:17:59 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )

Neuroskeptic: "More lesbians say they "always" orgasm during sex (86%) than straight women (65%). Men bad in bed, science finds."﻿

2017-02-19 11:29:17 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 9 +1s; )

> Spiritual awakening is frequently described as a journey to the top of a mountain. We leave our attachments and our worldliness behind and slowly make our way to the top. At the peak we have transcended all pain. The only problem with this metaphor is that we leave all others behind. Their suffering continues, unrelieved by our personal escape.

> On the journey of the warrior-bodhisattva, the path goes down, not up, as if the mountain pointed toward the earth instead of the sky. Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move toward turbulence and doubt however we can. We explore the reality and unpredictability of insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away. If it takes years, if it takes lifetimes, we let it be as it is.

> At our own pace, without speed or aggression, we move down and down and down. With us move millions of others, our companions... more »

2017-02-18 20:37:54 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )

> The key point is that the political economy of anti-immigrant, Islamophobic news is such that the fabrication of stories implicating Muslims is worth it: those who start the rumors (whatever their reasons) know that there are media outlets willing to smear an entire religious group. The media outlets, in turn, are willing to run questionable material because it is red meat to a large portion of their base. It sells. Later apologies, if they come at all, are of no concern.

> In one of the more astonishing stories of 2017, last week the German tabloid Bild claimed that on New Year’s Eve in Frankfurt, a huge group of intoxicated Muslim men, most of them refugees, had formed a “rioting sex mob” and assaulted scores of women. The story contained “eyewitness” accounts and even interviews with purported victims. Naturally, it was picked up internationally and spread via social media.
... more »

2017-02-18 12:25:29 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 3 +1s; )

> “Why should it be different this time?” That’s the most common response I hear when I raise concerns about automation and the future of jobs, and it’s a pretty simple rejoinder. The Western world managed the shift out of agricultural jobs into industry, and continued to see economic growth. So will not the jobs being displaced now by automation and artificial intelligence lead to new jobs elsewhere in a broadly similar and beneficial manner? [...]

> As economics, that may well be correct, but as history it’s missing some central problems. The shift out of agricultural jobs, while eventually a boon for virtually all of humanity, brought significant problems along the way. This time probably won’t be different, and that’s exactly why we should be concerned.

> Consider, for instance, the history of wages during the Industrial Revolution. Estimates vary, butit is common to t... more »

2017-02-18 09:03:09 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )

> Notice that very often, the very first things we give up are those that nourish us the most but seem ‘optional’. The result is that we are increasingly left with only work or other stressors that often deplete our resources, and nothing to replenish or nourish us – and exhaustion is the result.

-- Mark Williams & Danny Penman: Mindfulness﻿

2017-02-17 20:57:33 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 7 +1s; )

Weird mental changes that have happened to me: I find it a little alien that a lot of people have a strong will to live.

I do still have a self-preservation instinct: put me in a dangerous situation, and I'll get afraid and try to escape. And on an intellectual level, I think that it's probably better for me to exist than not, because that way I can continue to do what are hopefully good things.

But that's it: I have a fear of danger and an intellectual preference for existence for the sake of others. What's missing is a positive emotional urge to exist. It's more of an "eh, now that I'm here, I might as well continue being here, I guess."

A lot of people seem to have something much stronger, a sense of really wanting to be alive, of being grateful for existing, feeling that even if life was really bad then almost anything is still... more »

2017-02-16 21:08:44 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 2 +1s; )

The World Economic Forum says that the work I'm currently doing for my employer is (or at least "may be") morally obligatory:

> Some serious thinkers fear that AI could one day pose an existential threat: a “superintelligence” might pursue goals that prove not to be aligned with the continued existence of humankind. Such fears relate to “strong” AI or “artificial general intelligence” (AGI), which would be the equivalent of human-level awareness, but which does not yet exist. Current AI applications are forms of “weak” or “narrow” AI or “artificial specialized intelligence” (ASI); they are directed at solving specific problems or taking actions within a limited set of parameters, some of which may be unknown and must be discovered and learned. [...]

> Scholars, philosophers, futurists and tech enthusiasts vary in their predictions for theadvent of artificial ge... more »

2017-02-16 15:48:01 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 5 +1s; )

> Price was the first person ever to be diagnosed with what is now known as highly superior autobiographical memory, or HSAM, a condition she shares with around 60 other known people. She can remember most of the days of her life as clearly as the rest of us remember the recent past, with a mixture of broad strokes and sharp detail. Now 51, Price remembers the day of the week for every date since 1980; she remembers what she was doing, who she was with, where she was on each of these days. She can actively recall a memory of 20 years ago as easily as a memory of two days ago, but her memories are also triggered involuntarily.

> It is, she says, like living with a split screen: on the left side is the present, on the right is a constantly rolling reel of memories, each one sparked by the appearance of present-day stimuli. With so many memories always at the ready, Price says, it can be... more »

2017-02-16 15:12:51 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 3 +1s; )

> Linus Torvalds believes the technology industry's celebration of innovation is smug, self-congratulatory, and self-serving.

> The term of art he used was more blunt: "The innovation the industry talks about so much is bullshit," he said. "Anybody can innovate. Don't do this big 'think different'... screw that. It's meaningless. Ninety-nine per cent of it is get the work done."

> In a deferential interview at the Open Source Leadership Summit in California on Wednesday, conducted by Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, Torvalds discussed how he has managed the development of the Linux kernel and his attitude toward work.

> "All that hype is not where the real work is," said Torvalds. "The real work is in the details."

> Torvalds said he subscribes to the view that... more »

2017-02-16 13:33:49 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 3 +1s; )

Surprising facts: Amazon made a loss for the first seven years of its existence, still sometimes does and only makes relatively slim profits when it doesn't.

> In Amazon’s early years, a running joke among Wall Street analysts was that CEO Jeff Bezos was building a house of cards. Entering its sixth year in 2000, the company had yet to crack a profit and was mounting millions of dollars in continuous losses, each quarter’s larger than the last. Nevertheless, a segment of shareholders believed that by dumping money into advertising and steep discounts, Amazon was making a sound investment that would yield returns once e-commerce took off. Each quarter the company would report losses, and its stock price would rise. One news site captured the split sentiment by asking, “Amazon: Ponzi Scheme or Wal-Mart of the Web?”

> Sixteen years on, nobody seriously doubts that Amazonis anyt... more »

2017-02-16 13:17:15 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 3 +1s; )

Good AI's General AI Challenge launched: first round has $50k in prizes,$5mil in total prizes over the multi-year General AI Challenge.

> How this round works:

> * Today, teams start developing their AI / AGI agents
> * They can develop, test and train their agents on training tasks provided by us
> * After 6 months, teams will submit their pre-trained agents / models and code
> * We will start evaluating the agents on non-public evaluation tasks
> * We will test the agent’s ability to learn gradually and to not-forget skills﻿

2017-02-16 12:17:28 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )

> On January 30th, Sidd Bikkannavar, a US-born scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory flew back to Houston, Texas from Santiago, Chile.

> On his way through through the airport, Customs and Border Patrol agents pulled him aside. They searched him, then detained him in a room with a bunch of other people sleeping in cots. They eventually returned and said they’d release him if he told them the password to unlock his phone.

> Bikkannavar explained that the phone belonged to NASA and had sensitive information on it, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. He eventually yielded and unlocked his phone. The agents left with his phone. Half an hour later, they returned, handed him his phone, and released him. [...]

> Companies like Elcomsoft make “forensic software” that can suck down all your photos, contacts — even passwords for your email and social mediaaccounts ... more »

2017-02-16 12:16:07 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )

> One of the best ways to improve the quality of short-term [weather] forecasting is to rely on sensors on the ground that report data like barometric pressure, which can help scientists determine when the weather’s about to change. These sensors are already being used to help forecasters predict the weather, but in some areas, they’re few and far between.

> In the last five years, however, the number of pressure sensors in the world has exploded. That’s because smartphone manufacturers have started putting them in their phones, mainly to help determine a device’s altitude for location tracking: Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones have packed barometers since 2011, and the feature came to Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in 2014. [...]

> Last year, a popular weather app called Dark Sky introduced an opt-in feature that automatically takes barometric pressure readings. “Weget more than... more »

2017-02-15 19:54:29 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )

> When you first start learning, early in life, there is a bottleneck in the amount of information you have access to. You soak up everything like a sponge, because you are open and there is relatively little to absorb.

> But very quickly, in elementary school, your access to information stops being the limiting factor. You take home a few giant textbooks, and suddenly the bottleneck moves to ways of structuring and contextualizing the information.

> In high school, you learn a variety of methods to structure information — outlines, diagrams, underlining and highlighting, reports, essays, notebooks and binders. The bottleneck moves to your ability to synthesize this information, to turn it into new ideas.

> In college, if you make it that far, the bottleneck moves to insight generation. You start questioning the world as given, and find that the juiciestintel... more »

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

There's almost something deep in this poem. Almost. (autocomplete-provided parts in brackets)

Roses are [the ones that you are looking for]
Violets are [the most popular]
Sugar is [the best thing to do]
And [not a good thing to do]﻿

2017-02-14 16:52:48 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 0 +1s; )

> My general sense is that the debate about trigger warnings has waned since its peak. There is certainly still a vigorous debate about ‘coddling’ on university campuses, and a persistent desire to create ‘safe spaces’ in order to accommodate oppressed minorities, but the specific debate about trigger warnings seems (to me at any rate) to have faded into the background.

> So that means now is probably a good time to reflect on its merits and see whether it casts any light on the more general debate about safe spaces and campus ‘coddling’. Fortunately there are some academic resources that help us to do this. Wendy Wyatt’s article “The Ethics of Trigger Warnings” is a particularly useful guide to the topic and I’m going to summarise and evaluate some of its contents over the next two posts.

> Wyatt’s article comes in two halves. The first half reviews thearguments of the ‘pro’... more »

2017-02-14 16:49:27 (4 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )

> A closely related issue is when it is reasonable to regard a proposed risk as non-serious. Predictions of risk from strangelets, black holes, vacuum decay and other “theoretical noise” caused by theoretical physics theories at least is triggered by some serious physics thinking, even if it is far out. Physicists have generally tended to ignore such risks, but when forced by anxious acceleratorphobes the arguments had to be nontrivial: the initial dismissal was not really well founded. Yet it seems totally reasonable to dismiss some risks. If somebody worries that the alien spacegods will take exception to the accelerator we generally look for a psychiatrist rather than take them seriously. Some theories have so low prior probability that it seems rational to ignore them.

> But what is the proper de minimis boundary here? One crude way of estimating it is to say that risks ofdes... more »

2017-02-14 16:38:52 (0 comments; 6 reshares; 7 +1s; )

> “They [the Trump campaign] were using 40-50,000 different variants of ad every day that were continuously measuring responses and then adapting and evolving based on that response,” Martin Moore, director of Kings College’s Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power, told The Guardian in early December. “It’s all done completely opaquely and they can spend as much money as they like on particular locations because you can focus on a five-mile radius.”

> Where traditional pollsters might ask a person outright how they plan to vote, Analytica relies not on what they say but what they do, tracking their online movements and interests and serving up multivariate ads designed to change a person’s behavior by preying on individual personality traits.

> “For example,” Nix wrote in an op-ed last year about Analytica’s work on the Cruzcampaign, ”our issues mod... more »

2017-02-11 22:47:56 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )

> Veterinarians from the HaClinica animal hospital, in Tel Aviv, Israel, recently offered their life-saving services to the humble garden snail after a mishap in a local woman's yard: she'd accidentally stepped on him — shattering his brittle shell. [...]

> In a series of photos posted on the clinic's Facebook page, vets documented how they set about putting the shell back together, piece by piece.

> The 'naked' snail was even on hand throughout the procedure, patiently observing the careful process with nary a complaint about their technique.﻿

2017-02-11 22:46:54 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )

> Mangia (also styled Mangia', with a trailing apostrophe) is a 1983 video game by Spectravision for the Atari 2600 video game console. [...]

> Mangia's gameplay has been described as "bizarre." The player gets to control a young boy, who must eat plates of pasta placed in front of him by his mother, who will keep feeding him until his stomach explodes on-screen.

> To prevent this, the player can, instead of eating the pasta, throw it to a cat, who occasionally appears at the window, and a dog, who walks across the bottom of the screen. However, if the mother sees the pasta being thrown to the cat or dog, she brings three times as much pasta the next time she returns.

> The joystick is used to control the player: pressing right causes the boy to grab a plate of pasta, pressing left causes him to eat it, and pressing up or down causes him to... more »

2017-02-11 22:46:00 (0 comments; 4 reshares; 5 +1s; )

On a chilly morning in December 1988, computer analyst Jack Barsky embarked on his usual morning commute to his office on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, leaving his wife and baby daughter at home in Queens. As he entered the subway, he caught sight of something startling: a daub of red paint on a metal beam. Barsky had looked for it every morning for years; it meant he had a life-changing decision to make, and fast.

Barsky knew the drill. The red paint was a warning that he was in immediate danger, that he should hurry to collect cash and emergency documents from a prearranged drop site. From there, he would cross the border into Canada and contact the Soviet consulate in Toronto. Arrangements would be made for him to leave the country. He would cease to be Jack Barsky. The American identity he had inhabited for a decade would evaporate and he would return to his former life: that of Albrecht... more »

2017-02-11 22:45:21 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )

> ... this one had a very strong piano introduction. For me, pianos always have the taste and texture of pineapple chunks. Usually, they're the sweet tinned ones, but in this case, they were large, fresh pineapple chunks.﻿

2017-02-11 15:27:12 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )

> O'Neil argues that while some algorithms may be helpful, others can be nefarious. In her 2016 book, "Weapons of Math Destruction," she cites some troubling examples in the United States:

>- Public schools in Washington DC in 2010 fired more than 200 teachers -- including several well-respected instructors -- based on scores in an algorithmic formula which evaluated performance.

>- A man diagnosed with bipolar disorder was rejected for employment at seven major retailers after a third-party "personality" test deemed him a high risk based on its algorithmic classification.

>- Many jurisdictions are using "predictive policing" to shift resources to likely "hot spots." O'Neill says that depending on how data is fed into the system, this could lead to discovery of more minor crimes and a "feedback loop" which... more »

2017-02-11 15:24:55 (11 comments; 1 reshares; 3 +1s; )

> The Sims 1 released in the year 2000. [...] two males or two females could not get married. They could kiss, they could slow dance, they could date, they could have sex [...], but they could not get married.

> The Sims 2 released in the year 2004. [...] Gay Sims were finally allowed to get married [...] they didn't actually call it marriage. Instead, when two males or two females chose to get married, they had a "Joined Union". The amount of points given to the sim for having a joined union was less than that for sims having a marriage. [...]

> The Sims 3 released in the year 2009. [...] gay sims can finally get married. There is no more to the system to mention- they can get married, the point values are the same, there's nothing more complicated about it. It's just finally aligned completely with heterosexula sims getting married.[...]
more »

2017-02-11 13:23:53 (5 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )

Huh. This feels like a pretty good explanation of why angry or bitter people often feel off-putting:

> People who are angry or bitter blame particular other people for their loss. So by expressing empathy with or helping such people, you risk getting involved in conflicts with those other people. In contrast, helping people who are just sad less risks getting you into conflicts.

> People who are angry tend to think they have a substantial chance of winning a conflict with those they blame for their loss. Anger is a more visible emotion that drives one more toward overt conflict. Angry people are visibly trying to recruit others to their fight.

> In contrast, bitter people tend to think they have little chance of winning a overt conflict, at least for now. So bitter people tend to fume in private, waiting for their chance to hit back unseen. If you help a bitter... more »

2017-02-10 11:46:39 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )

> * No, you probably wouldn’t have tackled that rampaging gunman and brought his workplace shooting to a halt.
> * No, you probably wouldn’t have stopped that dangerous scene at the kink club.
> * No, you probably wouldn’t have punched out that abuser who was molesting you when you weren’t expecting it.

> Because those last words are the critical ones: when you weren’t expecting it.

> The problem is that you’re not continually braced for the unexpected, and so when these extraordinary things happen to you, you’re not in the frame of mind of “This is a shooting” but rather mired in a muddled stew of “Wait, what’s going on here? Are those firecrackers? Am I overreacting? Does that guy really have a gun, or am I going to tackle some random dude for no good reason and make a fool out of myself?” [...]

> By the time you hearabout it, you’re presen... more »

2017-02-10 10:58:31 (2 comments; 1 reshares; 6 +1s; )

This is fantastic.﻿

2017-02-09 21:26:56 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 0 +1s; )

Eeeeek huge amount of Game Developers Conference talks

Good way to lose a few days of your life :)﻿

2017-02-09 21:07:55 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 2 +1s; )

I really liked, and have gotten a lot out of, the self-compassion advice in the book The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness. In particular, I noticed that I want to link to its meditation instructions pretty often, so I put them up here. They're a variant of the standard breathing exercise, but emphasizing softness and gentleness.

I also included a bit about the book's general approach and attitude to self-development and meditation, which I think is maybe even more powerful.﻿

2017-02-07 07:45:53 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )

> Last month I got to attend the Asilomar Conference on Beneficial AI. I tried to fight it off, saying I was totally unqualified to go to any AI-related conference. But the organizers assured me that it was an effort to bring together people from diverse fields to discuss risks ranging from technological unemployment to drones to superintelligence, and so it was totally okay that I’d never programmed anything more complicated than HELLO WORLD.

> “Diverse fields” seems right. On the trip from San Francisco airport, my girlfriend and I shared a car with two computer science professors, the inventor of Ethereum, and a UN chemical weapons inspector. One of the computer science professors tried to make conversion by jokingly asking the weapons inspector if he’d ever argued with Saddam Hussein. “Yes,” said the inspector, not joking at all. The rest of the conference was even moreinteresting... more »

2017-02-06 13:47:36 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )

> ... what is suffering? [...] Worryingly, [different working] definitions often implicitly or explicitly conflict [...] Intuitively, one would hope that gradual progress in affective neuroscience will make this problem less pressing- that given enough time&effort&resources, different approaches to defining suffering will cohere, and this problem will fade away.

> I am here to inform you that this is not going to happen: this outside view that “affective neuroscience is slowly settling on a consensus view of suffering” is not happening, and this hurdle to coordination will not resolve itself. Instead, the more affective neuroscience has learned about valence, the more confusing and divergent the picture becomes.

> The following is an overview (adapted from my core research) of what affective neuroscience knows about valence. ﻿

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