Thursday, May 31, 2012

Quote of the Day

"Right now, Venter is thinking of a bug. He is thinking of a bug that could swim in a pond and soak up sunlight and urinate automotive fuel. He is thinking of a bug that could live in a factory and gobble exhaust and fart fresh air."

On Craig Venter

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What I've Been Reading

The Underachiever's Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great by Ray Bennett. A brilliant funny version of distilled stoicism for easy reading in less than 20 minutes - a must read !!

"How many brilliant careers are coupled with disastrous marriages? How many talented, hardworking people smoke too much, exercise too little, or drink themselves into oblivion each week? At the other extreme, how many fitness-crazed or hypercompetitive individuals tear up their knees running marathons or risk life and limb scrambling to mountaintops? How many brilliant and ambitious people dream of winning accolades for their genius, only to wind up working for their C+ colleagues? And even if you do manage to just about maintain a full-sprint.
And for all its victims, the addiction of achievement leaves behind failed relationships, unhealthy bodies, corrupted minds, or some terrible combination of all three."

Underachievers principles:
  • Life’s too short. 
  • Control is an illusion. 
  • Expectations lead to misery. 
  • Great expectations lead to great misery. 
  • Achievement creates expectations. 
  • The law of diminishing returns applies everywhere. 
  • Perfect is the enemy of good. 
  • The tallest blade of grass is the surest to be cut. 
  • Accomplishment is in the eye of the beholder. 
  • The 4 Percent Value-Added Principle.
Underachievers diet:
  • Consuming in moderation has always been a good idea, and for the underachiever that comes naturally. A good beer (or two) isn’t meant to kill the pain of working too hard. With this in mind, a little laziness in dieting can do wonders for your health.
Underachievers workout:
  • Walk. 
  • Do something with your upper body. It could be push-ups, or light weights, or gardening. 
  • If you feel like it, do a little stretching before bed. I’m not talking yoga here. Simply relax and unknot those muscles that could use a little loosening. 
  • Sleep a lot. Studies have shown that getting plenty of rest can really improve your results when it comes to losing weight.
Underachievers wealth ratio:
  • What you HAVE ÷ What you WANT
  • If what you want is modest, what you have is greater by comparison.
"Remember, underachievement isn’t about doing absolutely nothing. It’s about the right effort at the right time, in the right place. And not one bit more."

Quote of the Day

"You must always work not just within, but below your means. If you can handle three elements, handle only two… In that way, the ones you do handle, you handle with more ease, more mastery, and you create a feeling of strength in reserve."

- Picasso

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

First Senior Checkup

Max's annual checkup was due today and surprise surprise, since he is 6 years old, it turned out to be his first senior checkup. A "tailor" made blood work to scrutinize the proper functioning of all major body parts. He has patches of grey slowly blossoming but in his mind and body he is still that little 8 week old boy I held in my arms 6 years ago. I know... there will be day when Vet will be my psuedo-God but for now, I hate visiting them and pretty much hate everything about them.

Quote of the Day

“If Mayors Ruled the World” is premised on the notion that of the three elemental political units — empires, nations, and cities — it is cities which have existed the longest and cities which today represent the level at which “things get done.” In an age where the tenets of the nation-state system — sovereignty, independence, and nationhood — are out of synch with the nature of global problems, cities represent the more appropriate scale for finding solutions, sharing best practices, and shaping emergent norms. As Barber puts it, “Radical interdependence requires that we respond to problems through the actors that are not jurisdictionally limited by sovereignty.” Barber believes that cities tend to act more non-ideologically and pragmatically than nation-states. Cities invite the other into themselves and form a collective with them, while nations are defined by exclusion of the other.

- Parag Khanna on Benjamin Barber's current book project titled If Mayors Ruled the World

Monday, May 28, 2012

Wisdom Of Fareed Zakaria

"I know I am expected to provide some advice at a commencement. Should you go into nanotechnology or bioengineering? What are the industries of the future? Honestly, I have no idea. But one thing I do know is that human beings will reward and honor those talents of heart and mind they have always honored for thousands of years: intelligence, hard work, discipline, courage, loyalty and, perhaps above all, love and a generosity of spirit. Those are the qualities that, at the end of the day, make you live a great life, one that is rewarded by the outside world, and a good life, one that is rewarded only by those who know you best. These are the virtues that people honor, that they built statues for 5,000 years ago. Well, nobody builds statues anymore. They build weird, modernist sculptures with strange pieces of metal falling off of them, but you get my idea. Trust yourself; you know what you should do. You know the kind of life you should live. You don’t need an ethics course to know what you shouldn’t do. Just trust in your instincts, be true to them, and you will make for yourself a great and a good life. And, in doing so, you will change the world."

- Fareed Zakaria

Quote of the Day

"But I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe within any purpose, which is the way it really is, so far as I can tell. It doesn't frighten me. "

- Richard Feynman

Sunday, May 27, 2012

War on Wisdom - Barry Schwatz

“This talk is about how we have too little choice. As a society we are giving people choices when then don’t need them and depriving them of choices where they do.”

After assuring the audience that one didn’t need to know a “single thing about psychology to understand and disagree” with his talk, he explained that America was “broken.” All the most fundamental institutions of a functioning society—healthcare, education, criminal justice, banking, politics–  “do not work the way that they should.” Our carrots and sticks seem to miss the point, or make things worse.

To resolve the problem one need only return to the ancient Greeks. “We need virtue,” he said. “A virtue that Aristotle referred to as ‘practical wisdom.’” It is very simple, really. Practical wisdom is “the will to do the right thing and the skill to figure out what the right thing is. “

“Wise people know when and how to make the exception to every rule,” Schwartz said.

Wisdom, he said, is “moral jazz”.  Where a great jazz musician must be a genius of improvisation, so too are those who are wise. Add to that, simple empathy and the ability to choose among virtues or rules when they conflict. There is often a choice between being honest and being kind, and they make the right choice.

The essential common ingredient for all of these qualities is experience. Schwartz explained, “No one is born wise; everyone is born with the capacity to be wise.”

- More Here

Barry Schwatz is author of one of my favorite books, Practical Wisdom.

Quote of the Day

"A public life that is so emptied of moral meaning and resonance, that the narrowest, most intolerant forms of moralism will enter, and try to dominate that space."

- Michael Sandel

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wisdom Of The Week

How do you quantify risk intelligence?
I set up an online test to measure risk quotient or RQ. It consists of 50 statements, some true, some false, and you have to estimate the likelihood of a statement being true. The average RQ is not high. There are two ways you can have a low RQ. One is by being overconfident, the other is by being under-confident. You do find people making the under-confidence mistake, but there are far fewer of them.

What mistakes do we make in assessing risks?

The need for closure is a really interesting one. If you have a great need for closure, it means you don't like being in a state of uncertainty - you want an answer, any answer, even if it is the wrong one. On the other extreme, there is this need to avoid closure, where you are constantly seeking more information, so you get stuck in analysis paralysis.

Can we increase our risk quotient?

Absolutely. One way is by being aware of different cognitive biases. Another is to play a personal prediction game. Bet against yourself and estimate probabilities of anything: whether your partner will get home before 6 o'clock, or whether it is going to rain, and keep track of them. Expert gamblers are constantly on the lookout for overconfidence, biases and so on. It is hard work, but it means they know themselves pretty well and they don't have illusions. They know their weaknesses.

Take the Risk Quotient test here

Quote of the Day

"If people feel they don’t have the power to change a situation, they stop thinking about it."

- Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

Friday, May 25, 2012

Wisdom of Norman Borlaug

  • You can't build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery.
  • Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.
  • I grew up on the land, on a small farm in NE Iowa. Life was not always easy. I experienced the economic depressions of the 1930s, and from the experience, I felt that families on the land needed help from scientists, and I dedicated my life to science, and especially to food production.
  • I personally cannot live comfortably in the midst of abject hunger and poverty and human misery, if I have the possibilities of--even in a modest way, with the help of my many scientific colleges--of doing something about improving the lives of these many young children.
  • There can be no permanent progress in the battle against hunger until the agencies that fight for increased food production and those that fight for population control unite in a common effort.
  • It is a sad fact that on this earth at this late date there are still two worlds, "the privileged world" and "the forgotten world". The privileged world consists of the affluent, developed nations, comprising twenty-five to thirty percent of the world population, in which most of the people live in a luxury never before experienced by man outside the Garden of Eden. The forgotten world is made up primarily of the developing nations, where most of the people, comprising more than fifty percent of the total world population, live in poverty, with hunger as a constant companion and fear of famine a continual menace.
  • There are no miracles in agricultural production.
  • Without food, man can live at most but a few weeks; without it, all other components of social justice are meaningless.
  • The destiny of world civilization depends upon providing a decent standard of living for all mankind.
  • Civilization as it is known today could not have evolved nor can it survive without an adequate food supply. Yet food is something that is taken for granted by most world leaders despite the fact that more than half of the population of the world is hungry. Man seems to insist on ignoring the lessons available from history.
  • Man's survival, from the time of Adam and Eve until the invention of agriculture, must have been precarious because of his inability to ensure his food supply.
  • I now say that the world has the technology – either available or well advanced in the research pipeline – to feed on a sustainable basis a population of 10 billion people. The more pertinent question today is whether farmers and ranchers will be permitted to use this new technology? While the affluent nations can certainly afford to adopt ultra low-risk positions, and pay more for food produced by the so-called “organic” methods, the one billion chronically undernourished people of the low income, food-deficit nations cannot.
  • Some of the environmental lobbyists of the western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They have never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they would be crying out for tractors, and fertilizer, and irrigation canals, and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.
  • Our elites live in big cities and are far removed from the fields. Whether it's Brown or Ehrlich or the head of the Sierra Club or the head of Greenpeace, they've never been hungry.
  • Reach for the stars. Although you will never touch them, if you reach hard enough, you will find that you get a little star dust on you in the process.
  • Ehrlich has made a great career as a predictor of doom. When we were moving the new wheat technology to India and Pakistan, he was one of the worst critics we had. He said, "This person, Borlaug, doesn't have any idea of the magnitude of the problems in food production." He said, "You aren't going to make any major impact on producing the food that's needed." Despite his criticisms, we succeeded, of course.
  • Yes, but it's a never-ending job. When I was born in 1914, the world population was approximately 1.6 billion people. It has just turned 6 billion. We've had no major famines any place in the world since the Green Revolution began. We've had local famines where these African wars have been going on and are still going on. However, if we could get the infrastructure straightened out in African countries south of the Sahara, you could end hunger there pretty fast....And if you look at the data that's put out by the World Health Organization and [the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization], there are probably 800 million people who are undernourished in the world. So there's still a lot of work to do.
  • Contrasting sharply, in the developing countries represented by India, Pakistan, and most of the countries in Asia and Africa, seventy to eighty percent of the population is engaged in agriculture, mostly at the subsistence level.
  • For, behind the scenes, halfway around the world in Mexico, were two decades of aggressive research on wheat that not only enabled Mexico to become self-sufficient with respect to wheat production but also paved the way to rapid increase in its production in other countries.
  • I am but one member of a vast team made up of many organizations, officials, thousands of scientists, and millions of farmers - mostly small and humble - who for many years have been fighting a quiet, oftentimes losing war on the food production front.
  • Spectacular progress has been made in increasing wheat, rice, and maize production in several of the most populous developing countries of southern Asia, where widespread famine appeared inevitable only five years ago. 

There Is No Serious Evidence That GMOs Are Harmful But Yet The Stupidity Continues

Tyler Cowen blogs about the labeling fight in California... these guys have no clue what hunger and science is all about and driven only by their reptilian brains... so much for Norman Borlaug.

Farmers, food and biotech companies and scientists say that labels might lead consumers to reject genetically modified food — and the technology that created it — without understanding its environmental and economic benefits. A national science advisory organization in 2010 termed those benefits “substantial,” noting that existing biotech crops have for years let farmers spray fewer or less harmful chemicals, though the emergence of resistant weeds and insects threatens to blunt that effect.

In a letter circulating on social networks, one Iowa farmer, Tim Burrack, criticized this month’s O, the Oprah Magazine, which cited research linking genetic engineering to health concerns that many scientists have discredited and proposed “5 Ways to Lessen Your Exposure to GMO’s.” Mr. Burrack urged Ms. Winfrey not to “demonize GM crops"

Quote of the Day

So we can't just head off and look for the molecules of life as we know it?

Imagine if some historian wanted to know about the origin of France. Most French people now have passports. So imagine the historian went out on an archaeological dig to look for French passports. That would be ridiculous. France as a nation has evolved over time, and only in the modern version do you get passports. Same for life. You could say all life today has DNA, but in the past, who knows?

- Charley Lineweaver

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Donate Your Car To Humane Society

"The Humane Society of the United States' expanded program builds humane communities by helping animals and the people who love them. Donate a vehicle you're not using, and the One Car One Difference® program will auction your donation vehicle for cash for The Humane Society of the United States. Proceeds will go to the Pets For Life program to reduce suffering and cruelty, prevent shelter overpopulation, and promote veterinary care, thus improving the lives of people and animals in underserved communities."

- Donate Here

Philosophy of Technology

Brilliant paper urging philosophy not ignore technology - Here
A major difference between the historical development of modern technology as compared to modern science, which can at least partly explain this situation, is that science emerged in the seventeenth century from philosophy itself. The answers that Galileo, Huygens, Newton, and others gave, by which they initiated the alliance of empiricism and mathematical description that is so characteristic for modern science, were answers to questions that had belonged to the core business of philosophy since antiquity. Science, therefore, kept the attention of philosophers. Philosophy of science is a transformation of epistemology in the light of the emergence of science. The foundational issues—the reality of atoms, the status of causality and probability, questions of space and time, the nature of the quantum world—that were so lively discussed during the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century are an illustration of this close relationship between scientists and philosophers. No such intimacy has ever existed between those same philosophers and technicians; their worlds still barely touch. To be sure, a case can be made for a similar continuity between central questions in philosophy, having to do with human action and practical rationality, and the way technology approaches and systematizes the solution of practical problems. 

Technology is a continuous attempt to bring the world closer to the way it is to be. Whereas science aims to understand the world as it is, technology aims to change the world. 

Quote of the Day

"We can be knowledgeable with other men's knowledge, but we cannot be wise with other men's wisdom.”

- Michel de Montaigne

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to Make Philosophy Fun

Carlin Romano author of the new book America the Philosophical lists five of his favorite idiosyncratic philosophy books - must read list here

The Psychology of Philosophers by Alexander Herzberg:
You may know that Schopenhauer threw an old lady down the stairs, but had you heard that Rousseau accused his enemies of giving him invisible ink so he couldn’t write his Confessions?

On The Meaning of Life by Will Durant:
Durant wrote to scores of famous thinkers and asked them to reply to a single question: What is the meaning of life? Gandhi answered, “You have asked me to write at leisure and at length if I can. Unfortunately, I have no leisure and therefore writing at length is an impossibility.” 

The Philosophers: Their Lives and the Nature of Their Thought by Ben-Ami Scharfstein :
Why Spinoza staged spider fights while not leaving his house for three months, and other key biographical details.

John Dewey in China: To Teach and To Learn by Jessica Ching-Sze Wang:
Wang’s book, apart from its amusing reports of a great thinker on tour, provides a useful lens through which to view current U.S.-Chinese understandings and misunderstandings.

If You Can Read This: The Philosophy of Bumper Stickers by Jack Bowen:
If you brake for big ideas, the flap copy declares, this is the paperback original for you. Bowen, a philosophy teacher at the Menlo School in California, has  made an excellent case that when we’re stuck in traffic and the one-liner ahead sends our minds reeling—“Why Do Psychics Have to Ask For Your Name?” or “We Kill People to Show People That Killing People is Wrong”—we’re on the road to philosophy.

Quote of the Day

"A computer system that can measure fear is at the centre of Harris's thriller, and actually not far from reality. Derwent Capital Markets, a London-based hedge fund firm, uses a program that mines millions of comments made on Twitter to ascertain sentiment, examining the results to predict stock movements.

Correlating data from social media websites to markets is one of the hottest topics among this year's quantitative finance students, UCL's Treleaven said. Several other hedge funds are also studying how they might incorporate such data."

The Algorithmic Arms Race

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Guided Mastery Treatment of Phobias

"Guided mastery treatment (Williams, 1990) is a performance-based approach to phobia therapy derived from social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986, 1988; Cervone & Williams, 1992) and its component self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1988, in press; Williams, 1996). It is applicable to a broad range of specific and generalized phobias in both children and adults. In the self-efficacy analysis, phobic disability and distress result from people having lost their sense of self-efficacy, or confidence, that they can deal effectively with phobia-related activities or objects. Because people are most convinced that they can manage an activity by their own success at doing so, guided mastery treatment stresses overt performance mastery. The therapist's role is to promote performance successes by bringing to bear various techniques to enable clients to tackle scary tasks, and to execute them proficiently. Treatment is a collaboration between therapist and client in which the goal is to keep in motion a reciprocal interaction between increases in self-efficacy and greater performance successes, eventuating in mastery. This approach differs in important ways from phobia treatment conceived in terms of stimulus exposure and anxiety extinction (see Williams, 1990).

Guided mastery treatment includes three sets of techniques, designed in turn to raise the level, proficiency, and independence of people's performance. The therapist raises the level of self-efficacy and performance by intervening to help people do what they otherwise could not. One strategy for doing so is to perform therapeutic tasks with the client, such as riding with an agoraphobic person the first time she drives onto an expressway, or having a dog phobic man place his hand on the therapist's arm as the therapist pets the dog. Another is modeling, in which the therapist demonstrates or describes an action before asking the client to try it."

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Frans de Waal writes, "There will always be tension between those who view animals as only slightly more flexible than machines and those who see them as only slightly less rational than human beings." The problem of other minds is even worse across the species barrier. Science may never be able to settle whether animals use symbols in their inner lives, or whether they live entirely in the moment. We're stuck with reasoned interpretation of carefully observed behavior. And at the end of it, long after running the animals through our speciocentric hoops, if certain behaviors leave room for doubt about their symbolic content, why not give animals the benefit of the doubt? As JM Coetzee puts it, "Why should it be the doubters who always get the benefit of the doubt?"

- Namit Arora

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Elephant Whisperer - Lawrence Anthony

Story of Lawrence Anthony, author of The Elephant Whisperer: Learning About Life, Loyalty and Freedom From a Remarkable Herd of Elephants - here:

For 12 hours, two herds of wild South African elephants slowly made their way through the Zululand bush until they reached the house of late author Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist who saved their lives.The formerly violent, rogue elephants, destined to be shot a few years ago as pests, were rescued and rehabilitated by Anthony, who had grown up in the bush and was known as the “Elephant Whisperer.”

For two days the herds loitered at Anthony’s rural compound on the vast Thula Thula game reserve in the South African KwaZulu – to say good-bye to the man they loved. But how did they know he had died? Known for his unique ability to calm traumatized elephants, Anthony had become a legend. He is the author of three books, Babylon Ark, detailing his efforts to rescue the animals at Baghdad Zoo during the Iraqi war, the forthcoming The Last Rhinos, and his bestselling The Elephant Whisperer.

There are two elephant herds at Thula Thula. According to his son Dylan, both arrived at the Anthony family compound shortly after Anthony’s death.“They had not visited the house for a year and a half and it must have taken them about 12 hours to make the journey,” Dylan is quoted in various local news accounts. “The first herd arrived on Sunday and the second herd, a day later. They all hung around for about two days before making their way back into the bush.

Quote of the Day

"It takes strong ears indeed to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are few who can endure criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship. For it is a healthy love that will risk wounding or offending in order to profer a benefit."

- Michel de Montaigne

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What I've Been Reading

Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence by Rory Miller. This is one the top ten books I have ever read in my life, period. What made this book more special is fact that Miller is not even a professional writer. Everyone must read this book; especially all those quixotic women who live in delusion amalgamating "rights" with lack of prudence. Read this book - it might save your or your loved one's life someday (Thanks to Sam Harris for recommending this book).
  • Unicorns are mythical, yet we know so much about them. The rhinoceros is real and, except for a few experts, we know so little. There is a parallel between the unicorn and violence.
  • I present this as a warning. You are what you are, not what you think you are. Violence is what it is, not necessarily what you have been told.
  • Never, ever, ever delegate responsibility for your own safety. Never, ever, ever override your own experience and common sense on the say-so of some self-appointed "expert." Never, ever, ever ignore what your eyes see because it isn't what you imagined. And strive to always know the difference between what your eyes are seeing and what your brain is adding.
    When you are standing next to an elephant, it is huge. It could crush you at will or tear you in half, and there is nothing you could do. The advantage of being blind, of only knowing a part of this beast, is the comfortable illusion of safety.
  • The best advice in this book will serve to enrich your life more than it will contribute to your survival. This is one of those bits. Examine your own epistemology. Look at your beliefs, and the source of those beliefs. Some of your beliefs came from early training or bad sources. Some of your sources were chosen because you knew they supported your preexistigg point of view. Look very deeply at those sources that you accept without question. As you do this, it will allow you to see many things that you have thought of as true as merely opinions, and give you great freedom in exploring and understanding both your world and other people's.
  • In theory, there is no difference between theory and reality. In reality, there is. Reason, by itself, is only theory.
  • The OODA loop, described by U.S. Air Force Colonel John Boyd, has become the standard nomenclature for combative decision-making. In essence, each person must: Observe what is happening; Orient to the observations (interpret the sensory input); Decide what to do about it; and Act.
  • Acting bored and thoughtful can be very powerful. By not questioning your own status, it makes it harder for someone to challenge you for it. There is more, however. Boredom itself is one of the big indicators of confidence and even status. Whether it is in a boardroom, a job interview, a duel, or a football game, nervousness is the sign of the underdog, the probable loser. The opposite of nervousness can go beyond calm into bored. Powerful.
  • Experience is only a part of zanshin. If you don't pay attention to the experience, it might as well not have happened. A person can go to hell and back, but if he spent the trip covering his eyes and chanting, "This isn't happening. This isn't happening," he will not develop zanshin. If you live in denial, hiding from the experience and its effects, you will not develop zanshin.
  • Veterans don't process the sensory information in the same way as civilians, either-they often ignore the social context. It is very rare for a combat veteran to decide not to duck out of fear of looking-silly.
  • Keep your hands close, preferably touching something or lightly moving. I put one under the opposite elbow, splinting my ribs, and the other, usually stroking my jaw. It keeps you from visibly shaking (and neither you nor the threat needs to see you shake).you can hear your heartbeat, slow it down. It does work. Personally, I have the breathing down to a single "here we go again" sigh. Then I check my footing, feeling the muscles tighten in my legs, and clear the spine. To the threat, I look both bored and ready. I have never had an experienced fighter, who saw me clear the spine, keep the challenge up.
  • Someone is going to read this and think, "I have a right to go anywhere I want. Just because something is dangerous doesn't take away my rights." Let's get this over with now. Defending yourself is not and never has been about rights-rights are those things that the civilized members of society agree everyone deserves. When you hit the ground and taste blood in your mouth, when a steel-toed boot slams your head into a curb, when a knife slips under the waistband of your skirt and a hand is wrapped around your throat, the civilized agreement on how people should be treated is not an issue.
  • Lieutenant Webb, an instructor at the academy long ago, used to say, "No intelligent man has ever lost a fight to someone who said, `I'm gonna kick your ass!"' Those words were the signal and the license to prepare yourself. Leave. Get a weapon. Call the police. Call some friends. Find cover. Do whatever you need to do to stay healthy.
  • On the same day, I've had one arrestee say, "I'm not a real criminal; I just steal stuff. I don't hurt nobody." And another say, "So I beat the shit out of that guy, but I'm not a criminal. I never stole anything."
  • Rationalization is the internal process of convincing oneself that the violent horrible thing you want to do is honorable, logical, and justified. For the most part, from the perspective of self-defense, rationalization is rarely relevant. It happens entirely in the attacker's head and you must deal with the physical reality of the assault more than the threat's mindset.
  • Bad things happen in places. Bad things are done by bad people. If you avoid the had people and bad, places, you usually avoid the bad events. Avoiding dangerous places is the strategic level of terrain. Tactically, you have to learn to read and use the terrain around you. Notice places where you can be cut off, trapped, or surrounded. Identify exits and objects that can be used for cover and concealment. Who can see you? Who can see better than you can? If a window looks like a mirror to you, people on the other side can see in just fine. Develop the habit of planning for escape and evasion (E&E), because not being there is always the best solution. In the room you are in right now, and every room you enter until it becomes second nature, notice every way out-every door, every window you can break; every grill in the floor, wall, or ceiling.
  • The smart guy doesn't always win, doesn't even usually win-but an exceptionally sneaky, cunning, cold-blooded person can get away with some things. I've learned a lot from Robby over the years.
  • One of the most unexpected things about serious violence is that it is not over, ever. Anything that you have done, anything that you have not done, whether it succeeded or failed, will weigh on your mind. In all probability, it will eat at you.
  • I'm not a traffic enforcement officer who has had to use a snow shovel to scrape the remains of a pedestrian off the pavement, or a detective who has to develop rapport with rapists again and again, or a paramedic who has seen more shattered bodies in a year than I have or will see in my lifetime. Somewhere, not too far from where you live, there are people who deal with this, people for whom this is part of their everyday world. They do this job so that other people don't have to see it or deal with it or understand it. They carry the baggage of the rhinoceros so that the rest of the world can believe in unicorns.
  • To sum up-nothing matters, but some stuff matters to me. Artificial priorities disappear; meaningless questions ("Why are we here?") are outed as time-wasting, self-indulgent, self-centered bullshit. Buddhists speak of attachment. Attachment is the "therefore" (e.g., "I love you, therefore..."). You must love me back? Not likely. Nothing bad must happen to you? Can't control the universe, partner.
  • It's better to avoid than to run; better to run than to de-escalate; better to de-escalate than to fight; better to fight than to die. The very essence of self-defense is a thin list of things that might get you out alive when you are already screwed.

Quote of the Day

"When people are bad at math, they know it, because they get the wrong answers on tests. But when people are bad at open-mindedness they don't know it."

- Paul Graham

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Essentialism in Psychology - Bruce Hood

"What would I do with a million dollar Chair? Well, my big thing is essentialism. Its origins probably can be traced to the notion of ideal forms, which is a platonic idea. I discovered essentialism basically by reading Susan Gelman's work, and essentialism has an experimental tradition, not that old by the way, in naïve biology. The way that children reason about the world, there's a lot of good evidence to suggest that there are domains of knowledge: physical, reasoning about the physical world; reasoning about the living world, the biological one; and reasoning about the psychological world. Those three domains are the physics, the biology and the psychology, and are deemed to cover the majority of what we do when we're thinking about concepts.

In the biological world, people like Gelman have argued that children infer an invisible dimension. When they're making categorical decisions about why dogs are different from cats, for example, they go over and beyond the outward appearances, and infer that there must be some internal property that makes a dog a dog. Irrespective of changing its outward appearance or if you raise it with a litter of kittens, it will still turn out and grow up into a dog. So they kind of understand there's something over and beyond the physical aspect of it. Well, there is, it's DNA, but no four year old knows explicitly about DNA. But they do have this intuition that there is this essential property. Essentialism in the research field, in developmental psychology, started off in biology. But I was interested in essentialism basically almost contaminating to different domains for objects, the way that we treat objects as irreplaceable. This is the issue of authenticity. The authenticity of objects is starting to get into the boundary of what, of an essential property, makes something irreplaceable."

- More Here

Wisdom Of The Week

First off, read a damn book. Read lots of books. When you commute, listen to recorded books and when you have dead time and no real life around you to watch, crack open a book. Read as much as you can on as many subjects as you can and keep both a skeptical and an open mind. Let the new ideas in, play with them, but don't just swallow them whole. Just because it got published doesn't mean it's true.
Read more non-fiction than fiction. The world is a huge and amazing place and in history and anthropology you will find weirdness and drama that puts fiction to shame. And you will gain some insight, because everything connects.

Many of the books you read will have bibliographies. Bibliographies will lead you to more information. Often the sources quoted go into much more detail on a single aspect of the issue than was presented in the book.

What follows is a list of books that I got some things out of. It won't be complete. I try to read two non-fiction books a week and in the course of the last few decades I must have forgotten hundreds of titles. Furthermore, there isn't an author on this list that I agree with 100%. Be skeptical. Check sources. Sometimes you will find that the sources quoted do not say what the author says. That's life in the big city.

- From the Bibliography of Rory Miller's EXCELLENT book Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence 

Quote of the Day

“As there is a degree of depravity in mankind, which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence.”

- James Madison

Friday, May 18, 2012

Quote of the Day

"But that's nothing compared with living with the knowledge that you just cannot afford to keep your pet in perfect health. My heart goes out to people in that position. And their animals."

- Andrew

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quote of the Day

The most effective leaders bring people around them who critique them. "As a power holder, the smartest thing you might ever do is bring people together who will inspect your thinking and who aren’t afraid to challenge your ideas.” But, ironically, the study shows that the more powerful they become, the less help leaders think they need.

- via FS

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Don't Expect Applause

"Accept applause, sure, please do.

But when you expect applause, when you do your work in order (and because of) applause, you have sold yourself short. That's because your work is depending on something out of your control. You have given away part of your art. If your work is filled with the hope and longing for applause, it's no longer your work--the dependence on approval has corrupted it, turned it into a process where you are striving for ever more approval."

- Seth Godin

Shyness Vs Social Anxiety Disorder

"When the symptoms were labelled as "social anxiety disorder", 83% of people recommended treatment. But when the same description was deemed "social phobia", it dropped to 75%, a statistically significant difference.

OK, that's only an 8% gap. It's a small effect, but then the terminological difference was a small one. "Anxiety disorder" vs "Phobia" is about a subtle a distinction as I can think of actually. Imagine if one of the options had been a label that didn't imply anything pathological - "social anxiety" or "shyness". That would probably have had a much bigger impact.

This matters, especially in regards to current debates over the upcoming DSM-5 psychiatric diagnostic manual. Lots of terminological changes are planned. This study is a reminder that even small changes in wording can have an impact on how people think about mental illness. DSM-5 will not merely change how professionals talk about the mind. It will change how everyone thinks and behaves."

- More Here

Quote of the Day

"It’s seldom that such enormous problems have such simple solutions, but this is one that does. We can tackle climate change without inventing new cars or spending billions on mass transit or trillions on new forms of energy, though all of that is not only desirable but essential.

In the meantime, we can begin eating less meat tomorrow. That’s something any of us can do, with no technological advances. If personal choice enacted on a large scale could literally save the world, maybe we have to talk about it that way. We could be heroes, like Bruce Willis in “Armageddon,” only maybe the sacrifice is on a more modest and easier scale. (You already changed your light bulbs; how about eating a salad?)"

- Mark Bittman

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Quote of the Day

Imagine an underwater world without whales, sharks, and dolphins, where jellyfish and algae rule. It's already happening.

- Callum Roberts in his new book,
The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dual N-back

Working memory is important stuff for learning and also just general intelligence.10 It’s not too hard to see why working memory could be so important. Working memory boils down to how much stuff you can think about at the same time.

With programmers, it’s especially hard. Productivity depends on being able to juggle a lot of little details in short term memory all at once. Any kind of interruption can cause these details to come crashing down. When you resume work, you can’t remember any of the details (like local variable names you were using, or where you were up to in implementing that search algorithm) and you have to keep looking these things up, which slows you down a lot until you get back up to speed.

One of the nice things about N-back is that while it may or may not improve your IQ, it may help you in other ways. WM training helps alcoholics reduce their consumption28 and increases patience in recovering stimulant addicts (cocaine & methamphetamine)29. The self-discipline or willpower of students correlates better with grades than even IQ30, WM correlates with grades and lower behavioral problems31 & WM out-predicts grades 6 years later in 5-year olds & 2 years later in older children32. WM training has been shown to help children with ADHD33 and also preschoolers without ADHD34; Lucas 2008 found behavior improvements at a summer camp. Another intervention using a miscellany of reasoning games with young (7-9 years old) poor children found a Forwards Digit Span (but not Backwards) and IQ gains, with no gain to the subjects playing games requiring rapid visual detection and rapid motor responses35, but it’s worth remembering that IQ scores are unreliable in childhood36 or perhaps, as an adolescent brain imaging study indicates37, they simply are much more malleable at that point.

More Here

Quote of the Day

"The privilege of knowing how, painfully, to frame answerable questions, answers which will lead him to more insights and better questions, as far as his mind can manage and his own life lasts. It is what he wants more than anything in the world, always has."

The Psychologist Who Wouldn't Do Awful Things to Rats by James Tiptree

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What I've Been Reading

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. Hadit is my favorite social scientist and obviously, I follow all his writings , talks and interviews. So when this long awaited book came out, it's hard to find anything new. But yet being a sucker of lucid writing, I loved it. Our world is still livable and will be better place because of people like Hadit. 


  • Etiquette books tell us not to discuss these topics in polite company, but I say go ahead. Politics and religion are both expressions of our underlying moral psychology, and an understanding of that psychology can help to bring people together. My goal in this book is to drain some of the heat, anger, and divisiveness out of these topics and replace them with awe, wonder, and curiosity. We are downright lucky that we evolved this complex moral psychology that allowed our species to burst out of the forests and savannas and into the delights, comforts, and extraordinary peacefulness of modern societies in just a few thousand years.
  • If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you. But if you think about moral reasoning as a skill we humans evolved to further our social agendas— to justify our own actions and to defend the teams we belong to— then things will make a lot more sense. Keep your eye on the intuitions, and don’t take people’s moral arguments at face value. They’re mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly, crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives.
  • We are indeed selfish hypocrites so skilled at putting on a show of virtue that we fool even ourselves. But human nature was also shaped as groups competed with other groups. We’re not always selfish hypocrites. We also have the ability, under special circumstances, to shut down our petty selves and become like cells in a larger body, or like bees in a hive, working for the good of the group. These experiences are often among the most cherished of our lives, although our hivishness can blind us to other moral concerns. Our bee-like nature facilitates altruism, heroism, war, and genocide.
  • We do moral reasoning not to reconstruct the actual reasons why we ourselves came to a judgment; we reason to find the best possible reasons why somebody else ought to join us in our judgment.
  • The social intuitionist model offers an explanation of why moral and political arguments are so frustrating: because moral reasons are the tail wagged by the intuitive dog. A dog’s tail wags to communicate. You can’t make a dog happy by forcibly wagging its tail. And you can’t change people’s minds by utterly refuting their arguments. Hume diagnosed the problem long ago: "And as reasoning is not the source, whence either disputant derives his tenets; it is in vain to expect, that any logic, which speaks not to the affections, will ever engage him to embrace sounder principles."
  • If you want to change someone’s mind about a moral or political issue, talk to the elephant first. If you ask people to believe something that violates their intuitions, they will devote their efforts to finding an escape hatch— a reason to doubt your argument or conclusion. They will almost always succeed.
  • When does the elephant listen to reason? The main way that we change our minds on moral issues is by interacting with other people. We are terrible at seeking evidence that challenges our own beliefs, but other people do us this favor, just as we are quite good at finding errors in other people’s beliefs. When discussions are hostile, the odds of change are slight. The elephant leans away from the opponent, and the rider works frantically to rebut the opponent’s charges. But if there is affection, admiration, or a desire to please the other person, then the elephant leans toward that person and the rider tries to find the truth in the other person’s arguments. The elephant may not often change its direction in response to objections from its own rider, but it is easily steered by the mere presence of friendly elephants (that’s the social persuasion link in the social intuitionist model) or by good arguments given to it by the riders of those friendly elephants (that’s the reasoned persuasion link).
  • Our moral thinking is much more like a politician searching for votes than a scientist searching for truth.
  • In 1991, Shweder wrote about the power of cultural psychology to cause such awakenings: Yet the conceptions held by others are available to us, in the sense that when we truly understand their conception of things we come to recognize possibilities latent within our own rationality  … and those ways of conceiving of things become salient for us for the first time, or once again. In other words, there is no homogeneous “backcloth” to our world. We are multiple from the start.
  • Hume got it right. When he died in 1776, he and other sentimentalists had laid a superb foundation for “moral science,” one that has, in my view, been largely vindicated by modern research. 11 You would think, then, that in the decades after his death, the moral sciences progressed rapidly. But you would be wrong. In the decades after Hume’s death the rationalists claimed victory over religion and took the moral sciences off on a two-hundred-year tangent.
  • Omnivores therefore go through life with two competing motives: neophilia (an attraction to new things) and neophobia (a fear of new things). People vary in terms of which motive is stronger, and this variation will come back to help us in later chapters: Liberals score higher on measures of neophilia (also known as “openness to experience”), not just for new foods but also for new people, music, and ideas. Conservatives are higher on neophobia; they prefer to stick with what’s tried and true, and they care a lot more about guarding borders, boundaries, and traditions.
  • The emotion of awe is most often triggered when we face situations with two features: vastness (something overwhelms us and makes us feel small) and a need for accommodation (that is, our experience is not easily assimilated into our existing mental structures; we must “accommodate” the experience by changing those structures). Awe acts like a kind of reset button: it makes people forget themselves and their petty concerns. Awe opens people to new possibilities, values, and directions in life. Awe is one of the emotions most closely linked to the hive switch, along with collective love and collective joy. People describe nature in spiritual terms— as both Emerson and Darwin did— precisely because nature can trigger the hive switch and shut down the self, making you feel that you are simply a part of a whole.
  • The very ritual practices that the New Atheists dismiss as costly, inefficient, and irrational turn out to be a solution to one of the hardest problems humans face: cooperation without kinship. Irrational beliefs can sometimes help the group function more rationally, particularly when those beliefs rest upon the Sanctity foundation. 33 Sacredness binds people together, and then blinds them to the arbitrariness of the practice.
  • Putnam and Campbell reject the New Atheist emphasis on belief and reach a conclusion straight out of Durkheim: “It is religious belongingness that matters for neighborliness, not religious believing.”
  • I don’t know what the best normative ethical theory is for individuals in their private lives. But when we talk about making laws and implementing public policies in Western democracies that contain some degree of ethnic and moral diversity, then I think there is no compelling alternative to utilitarianism. I think Jeremy Bentham was right that laws and public policies should aim, as a first approximation, to produce the greatest total good. I just want Bentham to read Durkheim and recognize that we are Homo duplex before he tells any of us, or our legislators, how to go about maximizing that total good.
  • We humans have an extraordinary ability to care about things beyond ourselves, to circle around those things with other people, and in the process to bind ourselves into teams that can pursue larger projects. That’s what religion is all about. And with a few adjustments, it’s what politics is about too.
  • Things changed in the 1990s, beginning with new rules and new behaviors in Congress. 4 Friendships and social contacts across party lines were discouraged. Once the human connections were weakened, it became easier to treat members of the other party as the permanent enemy rather than as fellow members of an elite club. Candidates began to spend more time and money on “oppo” (opposition research), in which staff members or paid consultants dig up dirt on opponents (sometimes illegally) and then shovel it to the media. As one elder congressman recently put it, “This is not a collegial body any more. It is more like gang behavior. Members walk into the chamber full of hatred.”
  • We can define moral capital as the resources that sustain a moral community. More specifically, moral capital refers to the degree to which a community possesses interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, and technologies that mesh well with evolved psychological mechanisms and thereby enable the community to suppress or regulate selfishness and make cooperation possible.
  • I believe that liberalism— which has done so much to bring about freedom and equal opportunity— is not sufficient as a governing philosophy. It tends to overreach, change too many things too quickly, and reduce the stock of moral capital inadvertently. Conversely, while conservatives do a better job of preserving moral capital, they often fail to notice certain classes of victims, fail to limit the predations of certain powerful interests, and fail to see the need to change or update institutions as times change.
  • I find it ironic that liberals generally embrace Darwin and reject “intelligent design” as the explanation for design and adaptation in the natural world, but they don’t embrace Adam Smith as the explanation for design and adaptation in the economic world. They sometimes prefer the “intelligent design” of socialist economies, which often ends in disaster from a utilitarian point of view.

Quote of the Day

Just wanted to thank you.  I read your "no Asshole rule" book on the plane my way to an interview.  I suspected from our initial phone interview that he could be a jerk.  I decided to take a new approach to the see how he interacted with shop floor employees and people that worked directly for him, to see how he spoke to me, and his verbal and visual actions, to see if I wanted this position instead of trying to impress them so they want to hire me.  I watched people that worked for him stand away from him when talking to him.  I saw he never smiled, and no one smiled at him.  He passed people on the line without so much as a nod to them.  And to top it off, he cut me off TWICE when I was talking like I wasn't even speaking, and then once even rudely didn't even PRETEND to listen to me as I talked about my background. In fact, I believe he started looking around and saying "uh huh, uh huh, uh huh" rudely "rushing me along" about 15 seconds into my background discussion.  To top it off, I remember you saying "assholes hire assholes", so I asked him if he had recommended the hiring of the people on his current team, and he boldly bragged "I hire EVERYONE on my team, it is all MY decision" I turned down the offer.  I believe in my heart, I would have worked for an asshole. .  And life is too short to do that again.

- A reader's email to Bob Sutton author of The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Wisdom Of The Week

  • Move the conversation from tolerance and acceptance of individuals on the autism spectrum to understanding and appreciation. (“Tolerance and acceptance” give a sense of putting up with something, whereas “understanding and appreciation” suggests valuing the contributions that individuals with autism bring to humanity.)
  • Know that if everyone were the same, the world would be a very boring place.
  • Understand that often the most important thing to a person on the autism spectrum about employment is making sure the job is done right. (Suggests that quality of workmanship is often the primary motivator of completing a task.)
  • Recognize that autism is. (Autism is neither good nor bad. It just exists, and it’s up to us to make as much good from the condition as possible).
  • Empower others to lead fulfilling and productive lives. That’s the greatest gift we can give to an individual on the autism spectrum, and to the rest of humanity (That way, the individual on the autism spectrum will be fulfilled and productive, and society will receive the great benefits of that person reaching their highest potential.)

Quote of the Day

“Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century:
Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others;
Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected;
Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it;
Refusing to set aside trivial preferences;
Neglecting development and refinement of the mind;
Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.”

- Cicero

Friday, May 11, 2012

Building A Memory Palace - Joshua Foer

Joshua Foer is the author of the fascinating book Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.

"How we perceive the world and how we act in it are products of how and what we remember. We're all just bundle of habits shaped by our memories. And to the extent that we control our lives, we do so by gradually altering those habits, which is to say the networks of our memory. No lasting joke, invention, insight, or work of art was ever produced by external memory (not yet, at-least).
Memory training is not just for the sake of performing party tricks; it's about nurturing something profoundly and essentially human."

Quote of the Day

"We must do like the animals that rub out their traces at the entrance to their lairs. Seek no longer that the world should speak of you, but how you should speak to yourself. Retire into yourself, but first prepare to receive yourself there; it would be madness to trust in yourself if you do not know how to govern yourself. ... Borrow nothing except from yourself, arrest your mind and fix it on definite and limited thoughts, and rest content with them, without any desire to prolong life and reputation."

- On Solitude, Michel de Montaigne

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dopamine Distribution Causes Slackers And Go-Getters?

"Whether someone is a "go-getter" or a "slacker" may depend on individual differences in the brain chemical dopamine, according to new research in the May 2 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings suggest that dopamine affects cost-benefit analyses. The study found that people who chose to put in more effort — even in the face of long odds — showed greater dopamine response in the striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, areas of the brain important in reward and motivation. In contrast, those who were least likely to expend effort showed increased dopamine response in the insula, a brain region involved in perception, social behavior, and self-awareness. Researchers led by Michael Treadway, a graduate student working with David Zald, PhD, at Vanderbilt University, asked participants to rapidly press a button in order to earn varying amounts of money. Participants got to decide how hard they were willing to work depending on the odds of a payout and the amount of money they could win. Some accepted harder challenges for more money even against long odds, whereas less motivated subjects would forgo an attempt if it cost them too much effort."

- More

Quote of the Day

"He let go of fear. He is clearly prepared to let the political chips fall as they may. That's why we elected him. That's the change we believed in. The contrast with a candidate who wants to abolish all rights for gay couples by amending the federal constitution, and who has donated to organizations that seek to "cure" gays, who bowed to pressure from bigots who demanded the head of a spokesman on foreign policy solely because he was gay: how much starker can it get?"

- Andrew

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mindfulness Meditation May Help Doctors Provide Better Care

"Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that training doctors in mindfulness meditation helped them to listen better and not be as judgmental both at home and at work. The study will be published in the June issue of the journal Academic Medicine.

For the study, doctors in Rochester, N.Y., participated in a mindfulness meditation training course that consisted of eight weekly two-and-a-half-hour sessions, one all-day session, and then 10 monthly two-and-a-half-hour sessions of mindfulness training. The researchers interviewed 20 of these doctors after the training program.

The researchers found that 60 percent of the doctors said that the training helped them to be more attentive listeners, and more than 50 percent said that they were more self aware and less judgmental in conversations."

- More Here

Quote of the Day

"We will find the key to our liberation only when we accept that what we once did to survive is now destroying us."

- Laura van Dernoot Lipsky

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

200 Years of Medicine - Atul Gawande

Before anesthesia, the sounds of patients thrashing and screaming filled operating rooms. So, from the first use of surgical anesthesia, observers were struck by the stillness and silence. In London, Liston called ether anesthesia a “Yankee dodge” — having seen fads such as hypnotism come and go — but he tried it nonetheless, performing the first amputation with the use of anesthesia, in a 36-year-old butler with a septic knee, 2 months after the publication of Bigelow’s report. 10 As the historian Richard Hollingham recounts,from the case records, a rubber tube was connected to a flask of ether gas, and the patient was told to breathe through it for 2 or 3 minutes.He became motionless and quiet. Throughout the procedure, he did not make a sound or even grimace. “When are you going to begin?” asked the patient a few moments later. He had felt nothing. “This Yankee dodge beats mesmerism hollow,” Liston exclaimed.

- More

The Intelligence Revolution - Sebastian Thrun

"Education is a life-long thing and this medium allows you educate yourself through out your life."
 - Sebastian Thrun

Quote of the Day

Ameritopia, like many po­lem­i­cal bad books in po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy, teems with mis­used ab­strac­tions and con­tains few em­piri­cal ex­am­ples. In chap­ters de­vot­ed to the Re­pub­lic, Le­vi­a­than, U­top­ia, and The Com­mun­ist Man­i­fes­to, Lev­in of­fers Cliff's Notes-like cap­sules of the works. His for­mu­la is to of­fer a brief phrase like, "as Locke ex­plains," fol­lowed by long quo­ta­tions that some­times go on for a page. (He also adores his own prose, as when he writes, "As I wrote in Liberty and Tyr­an­ny," then quotes him­self for near­ly half a page.) That's one way to pad a book.

- How can so bad a book, on so se­ri­ous a top­ic, sell so well?

Monday, May 7, 2012

NLP, AI and Symbolization in Legal Contexts

Against Symbolization (download full paper here):

This paper is a version of a presentation made at the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law at the University of Pittsburgh in June of 2011. The paper explores the limits of formal symbolization as a substitute for natural language in a variety of legal contexts, including proposed legal uses of decision theory in trials, whether computer aided or not. It blames Learned Hand’s famous “Hand formula” for negligence for planting the seed of feckless symbolization in the field of law, a seed that subsequently has grown wildly in many areas."

- via here

Quote of the Day

[Political "gaffe" stories] are completely information-free news events, and they absolutely dominate political news coverage and analysis. It's like asking your doctor if the X-rays show a tumor, and all he'll talk about is how stupid the radiologist's haircut looks. . . . ["Blast"] stories are. . . just as content-free as the "gaffe" stories. But they are popular for the same reason: There's a petty, tribal satisfaction in seeing a member of our team really put the other team in their place. And there's a rush of outrage adrenaline when the other team says something mean about us. So, instead of covering pending legislation or the impact it could have on your life, the news media covers the dick-measuring contest.
- David Wong, 5 Ways to Spot a B.S. Political Story in Under 10 Seconds

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Arnold King Responds to Campus Tsunami

"The early Web radically democratized culture, but now in the media and elsewhere you're seeing a flight to quality. The best American colleges should be able to establish a magnetic authoritative presence online."
- David Brooks

And Arnold nails it (Udacity is much better than Coursera)

They also have some disadvantages. I could argue that they do not really know what teaching is. They know how to guide students about what they should learn on their own. That the students then learn this stuff tells you a lot about the selection process of the admissions department, maybe not so much about the teaching process of the faculty. They also will face organizational conflict, so that while part of the institution may want to go full speed ahead, the rest of the institution will be dragging its heels. Why do we think that Thrun left Stanford? And by the way, I signed up for coursera to taste a sample and...nothingburger.

"How can we translate college into the online world?" is the wrong question. Education is not going to experience one gigantic conversion from analog to digital. Instead, legacy institutions are going to be pecked to death. One company will tackle a little piece of the problem here, while another company will tackle a little piece of the problem there. I think where we will end up is with education that is disaggregated, rather than replacing the aggregations that we now know as schools with equivalent online aggregations.

Brain Scans Give Glimpse of How Your Dog Thinks

Among the questions that might be studied is whether dogs understand the language of human commands, or respond more to body movements or other cues.

“One of the things we’re interested in is how dogs represent humans: Are we all just a pack to them, like Cesar Millan says? What part of the brain represents humans and other dogs? It could be sound, or scent, or any of those modalities,” Berns said. Dog empathy, and how it compares to the human version, is another possible area of investigation.

“Dog-lovers are convinced their dogs know what they’re feeling. Honestly, I’m on the fence about that. Maybe that’s because of my own dogs,” said Berns. “Skeptics out there — a.k.a. cat people — think dogs are just good actors. I don’t think it’s quite like that. But how far it goes, I’d love to figure out.”

- More Here

Quote of the Day

"In a recent study our team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how the brain responded to praying in Christian believers. Surprisingly, considering God’s postulated invisibility, omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience, we found that conversing with God was not associated with regions that process abstract concepts. Rather, we found a marked pattern of activity in four regions that typically activate when humans relate to other humans. Neurologically, this finding suggests that strong believers process God as a concrete person – in spite of the theologically complex and highly abstract nature of the Christian God. Interestingly, we did not find this pattern in believers who did not use praying regularly. Perhaps the religious brain can learn to treat gods as real persons through regular practice and strong beliefs."

- Neuroscience of Prayer

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Simplicity Thesis

  • Think end to end.  Simplicity relates to the entire customer experience, from how you handle pricing to customer support.
  • Say no.  Kill features and services that don’t get used, and optimize the ones that do.
  • Specialize.  Focus on your core competency, and outsource the rest--simplicity comes more reliably when you have less on your plate.
  • Focus on details.  Simple is hard because it’s so easy to compromise; hire the best designers you can find, and always reduce clicks, messages, prompts, and alerts.
  • Audit constantly.  Constantly ask yourself, can this be done any simpler? Audit your technology and application frequently.
The next thing to understand is that simplicity is a relative, moving target. The accelerating speed of innovation ensures that you’re never the simplest solution for long. Any delay in staying ahead of the curve can give way to a new disruptor that brings new efficiencies or creates new elegance because of an enabling technology or social change. Original category simplifiers like PayPal and Intuit have fallen prey to more nimble and disruptive competitors that have taken advantage of their current complexity and weaknesses.

- More Here

Wisdom Of The Week

"In crowded party, sometimes you just want to stand alone around the corner and stare out of the window. The problem is if you cannot smoke and stand and stare out of the window on your own - you are an anti-social friendless idiot. But  if you stand and stare out of the window on your own with a cigarette then you are fucking philosopher!! Thats the power of reframing things !!"

- Brilliant talk by Rory Sutherland on Perspective is Everything