Thursday, August 25, 2016

Quote of the Day

Before we can argue that something we currently appreciate deserves inclusion in the world of tomorrow, we must build that future world within our mind. This is not easy (even with drugs). But it's not even the hardest part. The hardest part is accepting that we're building something with parts that don't yet exist.

- Chuck Klosterman, But What If We're Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Quote of the Day

Call it the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Error: we can be wrong, or we can know it, but we can't do both at the same time.

- Kathryn Schulz, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Quote of the Day

It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished.

But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, 'whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,' and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.


- John Adams, The Portable John Adams

Monday, August 22, 2016

Chaos Monkeys - How One Assole Can Turn & Turned The Political Discourse To Nonsense

For generations, politicians have been viewed on a left-right spectrum, according to their policy positions. Now, however, they’re placed on a different spectrum entirely. At one end you find the sanguine technocrats of the old elite; at the other, the angry revolutionaries with no time for constitutional niceties.
 
Call this second group the “chaos monkeys,” the political outsiders who have no interest in mainstream policy debates. They tend to be deeply attractive to a huge and disillusioned “lol nothing matters” crowd, and often their egomania drives them to thirst for ever-greater power.

Vladimir Putin is a chaos monkey. So is Rodrigo Duterte, the newly elected president of the Philippines. And then there are the comedians – people like Beppe Grillo, in Italy, or Boris Johnson, in the UK, who catapult themselves into politics by force of little more than name recognition and an outsider attitude.


Chaos monkeys thrive in a world of social media, where messages aren’t intermediated by media elites and where a struggling middle class, which has seen little in the way of real economic gains in decades, has never found it easier to vent its frustrations.

Trump is the platonic ideal of the chaos monkey form: he has an enviable ability to capture the inchoate frustration of the 99% and turn it into something which can dominate the national political discourse, pretty much to the exclusion of everything else.

And that’s a huge problem. When a chaos monkey is in the race, he tends to render invisible severe and important policy distinctions. Trump is a very different beast from conventional politicians, but in order to see the difference, you need to look at him from a very different angle—an angle which renders everybody else more or less indistinguishable.

[---]

I
t has always been difficult for politicians to campaign on policies, as opposed to personalities and the power of inchoate narratives. But now it is harder than ever. This year, the effect is likely to be felt strongly in down-ticket races, where Democratic and Republican candidates are finding it incredibly hard to cut through the noise of the presidential race and to have substantive debates at least at the state level, or within Congressional districts.
 

And in future years, would-be presidential candidates are going to want to harness anger, rather than simply propose policies which will make the country a better place. Similarly, Trump voters are not easily going to revert to voting for some mild-mannered technocrat, whatever her place on the left-right spectrum. Trump has shaken up not only the Republican party but the entire American political system. And it’s hard to imagine that his brand of fiery invective will leave the stage when he does.

- More Here


Quote of the Day

One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.

- Bertrand Russell


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Quote of the Day

Beginning to reason is like stepping onto an escalator that leads upward and out of sight. Once we take the first step, the distance to be traveled is independent of our will and we cannot know in advance where we shall end.

- Peter Singer, The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

After reading this fascinating piece, The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority by Taleb , one can be either more pessimistic or more optimistic and neither is wrong.

An insight as to how the mechanisms of religion and transmission of morals obey the same renormalization dynamics as dietary laws –and how we can show that morality is more likely to be something enforced by a minority. We saw earlier in the chapter the asymmetry between obeying and breaking rules: a law-abiding (or rule abiding) fellow always follows the rules, but a felon or someone with looser sets of principles will not always break the rules. Likewise we discussed the strong asymmetric effects of the halal dietary laws. Let us merge the two. It turns out that, in classical Arabic, the term halal has one opposite: haram. Violating legal and moral rules –any rule — is called haram. It is the exact same interdict that governs food intake and all other human behaviors, like sleeping with the wife of the neighbor, lending with interest (without partaking of downside of the borrower) or killing one’s landlord for pleasure. Haram is haram and is asymmetric.

From that we can see that once a moral rule is established, it would suffice to have a small intransigent minority of geographically distributed followers to dictate the norm in society. The sad news, as we will see in the next chapter, is that one person looking at mankind as an aggregate may mistakenly believe that humans are spontaneously becoming more moral, better, more gentle, have better breath, when it applies to only a small proportion of mankind.

[---]
I wrote about people with logical flaws asking me if one should be “skeptical about skepticism”; I used a similar answer as Popper when was asked if “ one could falsify falsification”.
We can answer these points using the minority rule. Yes, an intolerant minority can control and destroy democracy. Actually, as we saw, it will eventually destroy our world.
So, we need to be more than intolerant with some intolerant minorities. It is not permissible to use “American values” or “Western principles” in treating intolerant Salafism (which denies other peoples’ right to have their own religion). The West is currently in the process of committing suicide.

[---]
This large payoff from stubborn courage is not just in the military. The entire growth of society, whether economic or moral, comes from a small number of people. So we close this chapter with a remark about the role of skin in the game in the condition of society. Society doesn’t evolve by consensus, voting, majority, committees, verbose meeting, academic conferences, and polling; only a few people suffice to disproportionately move the needle. All one needs is an asymmetric rule somewhere. And asymmetry is present in about everything.

Quote of the Day




Friday, August 19, 2016

Quote of the Day

The great source of misery...seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another.

- Adam Smith