Friday, September 30, 2016

Different Neural Network Architectures

- More Here

Quote of the Day

We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.

- Dalai Lama XIV

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Extraordinary Link Between Deep Neural Networks and the Nature of the Universe

The problem is that there are orders of magnitude more mathematical functions than possible networks to approximate them. And yet deep neural networks somehow get the right answer.

Now Lin and Tegmark say they’ve worked out why. The answer is that the universe is governed by a tiny subset of all possible functions. In other words, when the laws of physics are written down mathematically, they can all be described by functions that have a remarkable set of simple properties.

So deep neural networks don’t have to approximate any possible mathematical function, only a tiny subset of them.

To put this in perspective, consider the order of a polynomial function, which is the size of its highest exponent. So a quadratic equation like y=x2 has order 2, the equation y=x24 has order 24, and so on.

Obviously, the number of orders is infinite and yet only a tiny subset of polynomials appear in the laws of physics. “For reasons that are still not fully understood, our universe can be accurately described by polynomial Hamiltonians of low order,” say Lin and Tegmark. Typically, the polynomials that describe laws of physics have orders ranging from 2 to 4.

The laws of physics have other important properties. For example, they are usually symmetrical when it comes to rotation and translation. Rotate a cat or dog through 360 degrees and it looks the same; translate it by 10 meters or 100 meters or a kilometer and it will look the same. That also simplifies the task of approximating the process of cat or dog recognition.

These properties mean that neural networks do not need to approximate an infinitude of possible mathematical functions but only a tiny subset of the simplest ones.

There is another property of the universe that neural networks exploit. This is the hierarchy of its structure. “Elementary particles form atoms which in turn form molecules, cells, organisms, planets, solar systems, galaxies, etc.,” say Lin and Tegmark. And complex structures are often formed through a sequence of simpler steps.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Human beings, viewed as behaving systems, are quite simple. The apparent complexity of our behavior over time is largely a reflection of the complexity of the environment in which we find ourselves.

- Herbert A. Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Quote of the Day

Unfortunately, the Sapiens regime on Earth has so far produced little that we can be proud of. We have mastered our surroundings, increased food production, built cities, established empires and created far-flung trade networks. But did we decrease the amount of suffering in the world?

- Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Quote of the Day

It has been more profitable for us to bind together in the wrong direction than to be alone in the right one. Those who have followed the assertive idiot rather than the introspective wise person have passed us some of their genes. This is apparent from a social pathology: psychopaths rally followers.

- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Monday, September 26, 2016

How to Think Like Shakespeare

So how can you think like Shakespeare?

His mind was shaped by rhetoric, a term that you probably associate with empty promises — things politicians say but don’t really mean. But in the Renaissance, rhetoric was nothing less than the fabric of thought itself. Because thinking and speaking well form the basis of existence in a community, rhetoric prepares you for every occasion that requires words. That’s why Tudor students devoted countless hours to examining vivid models, figuring out ways to turn a phrase, exercising elaborate verbal patterning.

Antonio Gramsci described education in this way: "One has to inculcate certain habits of diligence, precision, poise (even physical poise), ability to concentrate on specific subjects, which cannot be acquired without the mechanical repetition of disciplined and methodical acts." You take it for granted that Olympic athletes and professional musicians must practice relentlessly to perfect their craft. Why should you expect the craft of thought to require anything less disciplined? Fierce attention to clear and precise writing is the essential tool for you to foster independent judgment. That is rhetoric.

Renaissance rhetoric achieved precision through a practice that might surprise you: imitation. Like "rhetoric," "imitation" sounds pejorative today: a fake, a knockoff, a mere copy. But Renaissance thinkers — aptly, looking back to the Roman Seneca, who himself looked back to the Greeks — compared the process of imitation to a bee’s gathering nectar from many flowers and then transforming it into honey. As Michel de Montaigne put it:

"The bees steal from this flower and that, but afterward turn their pilferings into honey, which is their own. … So the pupil will transform and fuse together the passages that he borrows from others, to make of them something entirely his own; that is to say, his own judgment. His education, his labor, and his study have no other aim but to form this."

The honey metaphor corrects our naïve notion that being creative entails making something from nothing. Instead, you become a creator by wrestling with the legacy of your authoritative predecessors, standing on the shoulders of giants. In the words of the saxophone genius John Coltrane: "You’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light." Listen to Coltrane fuse experimental jazz, South Asian melodic modes, and the Elizabethan ballad "Greensleeves," and you’ll hear how engaging with the past generates rather than limits.

The most fascinating concept that Shakespeare’s period revived from classical rhetoric was inventio, which gives us both the word "invention" and the word "inventory." Cartoon images of inventors usually involve a light bulb flashing above the head of a solitary genius. But nothing can come of nothing. And when rhetoricians spoke of inventio, they meant the first step in constructing an argument: an inventory of your mind’s treasury of knowledge — your database of reading, which you can accumulate only through slow, deliberate study.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The essential matter of history is not what happened, but what people said about it.

- Frederic Maitland

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Stealing an AI Algorithm & It's Underlying Data is a “High-School Level Exercise”

The researchers found that the complexity of the algorithm mirrored how hard it was to steal. Simple yes-or-no algorithms, which can be used to predict whether a tumor is malignant or mortality rates from sepsis, can be copied in just 41 queries, less than $0.10 under Google’s payment structure. Complex neural networks, like those used in handwriting recognition, on average took 108,200 queries, but achieved more than 98% accuracy when tested against the original algorithm.

These attacks are limited by a few parameters: since APIs are typically monetized per use, this methods can get expensive over 100,000 uses, and also raise red flags with the service provider. Ristenpart says that deeper neural networks are vexing, especially if the approach is a conglomeration of a few different algorithms.

Once they had stolen an algorithm, the team was also able to reveal the data that had been used to train it. They tested this attack on a public data set of faces, often used for facial recognition, and found that every face could be reconstructed. The algorithm had memorized each face to such an extent that it could generate each person’s likeness. If a company were to train their algorithm on private data, like health records or their users’ information, there’s no guarantee it would be safe if the API were accessible.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.

- Isaac Asimov

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Ultimate Exit Interview

GOODWIN: When Lincoln was 23 years old, and running for office the first time, he said, “Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.” And then, a decade later, when he was in the midst of a depression so severe that his friends took all the knives, razors, and other dangerous things from his room, he said he was more than willing to die but that he had “done nothing to make any human being remember that he had lived.” Isn’t that incredible? So how would you describe your “peculiar ambition” that every man has? And when did it develop?

OBAMA: It’s always dangerous to amend the words of Abraham Lincoln, but let me see if this is a friendly amendment. I actually think, when you’re young, ambitions are somewhat common—you want to prove yourself. It may grow out of different life experiences. You may want to prove that you are worthy of the admiration of the demanding father. You may want to prove that you are worthy of the love of an absent father. You may want to prove that you’re worthy of other kids or neighbors who were wealthier than you and teased you. You may want to prove that you’re worthy of high expectations. But I do think that there is a youthful ambition that very much has to do with making your mark in the world. And I think that cuts across the experiences of a lot of people who end up achieving something significant in their field. I think, as you get older, that’s when your ambitions become “peculiar” …

GOODWIN: Oh, well said, sir. We can amend Lincoln.

OBAMA: … because I think that at a certain stage those early ambitions burn away, partly because you achieve something, you get something done, you get some notoriety. And then the particularities of who you are and what your deepest commitments are begin expressing themselves. You’re not just chasing the idea of “me” being important, but you, rather, are chasing a particular passion.

So, in my case, you could analyze me and say that my father leaving and being absent was a motivator for early ambition, trying to prove myself to this apparition who had vanished. You could argue that me being a mixed kid in a place where there weren’t a lot of black kids around might have spurred on my ambitions. You could go through a whole litany of things that sparked me wanting to do something important.

But as I got older, then my particular ambitions started cohering around creating a world in which people of different races or backgrounds or faiths can recognize each other’s humanity, or creating a world in which every kid, regardless of their background, can strive and achieve and fulfill their potential.

And those particular ambitions end up being rooted not just in me wanting to prove myself, but they end up being rooted in a particular worldview, a recognition that the world only makes sense to me given my life and my background if, in fact, we’re not just an assortment of tribes that can never understand each other, but that we’re, rather, one common humanity that can meet and learn and love each other.


OBAMA: Absolutely. I am a firm believer that you don’t do anything significant by yourself. Again, maybe there are exceptions. There’s the Picasso or the Mozart.

GOODWIN: Yes, Teddy Roosevelt wrote that there are certain geniuses, of which he was not one. But Lincoln was one. Keats could write a poem that nobody else could write.

OBAMA: I don’t fall in that category. I marvel at those people who are true geniuses of that sort. But what I’ve seen in my own life is that when I get something important done it’s because of a lot of other people—some who get credit, some who don’t.

- More Here

Wisdom Of The Week

Quote of the Day

Chance is commonly viewed as a self-correcting process in which a deviation in one direction induces a deviation in the opposite direction to restore the equilibrium. In fact, deviations are not "corrected" as a chance process unfolds, they are merely diluted.

- Amos Tversky, Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases

Friday, September 23, 2016

Quote of the Day

As Zweig shows us, civilisation is a more fragile thing than we often care to understand. Every generation in its youthful vigour takes the view that it is the zenith of creation — an improved version on all that has come before, an evolution towards the ideal. Ours takes for granted that it will live in peace and relative economic stability and that this will continue, almost regardless of what decisions are taken, because that is all we have known.

But of course, what seems permanent is only ever transitory. We are evidentially no better than those who preceded us — no one has yet written a finer symphony than Beethoven, or a better cantata than Bach, or come close to the polymathic genius of da Vinci. And if we struggle to match their achievements, what right do we have to insist we will avoid their mistakes?

- The World of Today, Chris Deerin

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Quote of the Day

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear.

- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I Used to Be a Human Being

After a long hiatus, Andrew (Sullivan) is back and makes you cry:

My goal was to keep thought in its place. “Remember,” my friend Sam Harris, an atheist meditator, had told me before I left, “if you’re suffering, you’re thinking.” The task was not to silence everything within my addled brain, but to introduce it to quiet, to perspective, to the fallow spaces I had once known where the mind and soul replenish.


Has our enslavement to dopamine — to the instant hits of validation that come with a well-crafted tweet or Snapchat streak — made us happier? I suspect it has simply made us less unhappy, or rather less aware of our unhappiness, and that our phones are merely new and powerful antidepressants of a non-pharmaceutical variety. In an essay on contemplation, the Christian writer Alan Jacobs recently commended the comedian Louis C.K. for withholding smartphones from his children. On the Conan O’Brien show, C.K. explained why: “You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away,” he said. “Underneath in your life there’s that thing … that forever empty … that knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re alone … That’s why we text and drive … because we don’t want to be alone for a second.”

He recalled a moment driving his car when a Bruce Springsteen song came on the radio. It triggered a sudden, unexpected surge of sadness. He instinctively went to pick up his phone and text as many friends as possible. Then he changed his mind, left his phone where it was, and pulled over to the side of the road to weep. He allowed himself for once to be alone with his feelings, to be overwhelmed by them, to experience them with no instant distraction, no digital assist.


And yet I wonder. The ubiquitous temptations of virtual living create a mental climate that is still maddeningly hard to manage. In the days, then weeks, then months after my retreat, my daily meditation sessions began to falter a little. There was an election campaign of such brooding menace it demanded attention, headlined by a walking human Snapchat app of incoherence. For a while, I had limited my news exposure to the New York Times’ daily briefings; then, slowly, I found myself scanning the click-bait headlines from countless sources that crowded the screen; after a while, I was back in my old rut, absorbing every nugget of campaign news, even as I understood each to be as ephemeral as the last, and even though I no longer needed to absorb them all for work.

Then there were the other snares: the allure of online porn, now blasting through the defenses of every teenager; the ease of replacing every conversation with a texting stream; the escape of living for a while in an online game where all the hazards of real human interaction are banished; the new video features on Instagram, and new friends to follow. It all slowly chipped away at my meditative composure. I cut my daily silences from one hour to 25 minutes; and then, almost a year later, to every other day. I knew this was fatal — that the key to gaining sustainable composure from meditation was rigorous discipline and practice, every day, whether you felt like it or not, whether it felt as if it were working or not. Like weekly Mass, it is the routine that gradually creates a space that lets your life breathe. But the world I rejoined seemed to conspire to take that space away from me. “I do what I hate,” as the oldest son says in Terrence Malick’s haunting Tree of Life.

I haven’t given up, even as, each day, at various moments, I find myself giving in. There are books to be read; landscapes to be walked; friends to be with; life to be fully lived. And I realize that this is, in some ways, just another tale in the vast book of human frailty. But this new epidemic of distraction is our civilization’s specific weakness. And its threat is not so much to our minds, even as they shape-shift under the pressure. The threat is to our souls. At this rate, if the noise does not relent, we might even forget we have any.

Quote of the Day

The thing that struck me was his intensity. Whatever he was interested in he would generally carry to an irrational extreme." Jobs had honed his trick of using stares and silences to master other people. One of his numbers was to stare at the person he was talking to. He would stare into their fucking eyeballs, ask some question, and would want a response without the other person averting their eyes.

- Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Quote of the Day

A great nation is not saved by wars, it is saved by acts without external picturesqueness; by speaking, writing, voting reasonably; by smiting corruption swiftly; by good temper between parties; by the people knowing true men when they see them, and preferring them as leaders to rabid partisans and empty quacks.

- William James

Monday, September 19, 2016

Quote of the Day

After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked—as I am surprisingly often—why I bother to get up in the mornings.

- Richard Dawkins

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Quote of the Day

The changes in our life must come from the impossibility to live otherwise than according to the demands of our conscience not from our mental resolution to try a new form of life.

- Leo Tolstoy

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

Price had set himself the ‘problem’ of explaining why humans lived in families – particularly what fatherhood was for, scientifically speaking. This, in turn, led him to the question of how altruism had evolved, and it was while studying new theories around this topic that he derived what is now called the Price equation, almost by accident.

This is what it looked like:

It captured the essence of evolution by natural selection in one simple formula. It describes how in a population of reproducing individuals, be they people, plants or self-replicating robots, any trait (z) that increases fitness (w) will increase in the population with each new generation; if a trait decreases fitness, it will decrease. It’s a type of statistical relationship called covariance, and it was so elegant that Price couldn’t quite believe no one had stumbled across it before.

So in September 1968, this obscure middle-aged American scientist walked in off the street to the Galton Laboratory, the home of human genetics at University College London. No one there knew who he was – he had no credentials, held no academic position and had no appointment. All he had was an equation. When he confidently proclaimed in his condescending, high-pitched voice that his equation could explain the evolution of altruism, they probably thought he was a crank. Nevertheless, when he walked out 90 minutes later, Price had a job and the keys to his own office.

He continued to hone his equation there, but at the same time began giving away his possessions. He would seek out the homeless in Soho Square or at the nearest railway stations, Euston and King’s Cross, and give them anything they asked for, from the money out of his pay packet right down to the clothes off his back. If they needed a place to sleep, he would invite them back to his flat indefinitely. Eventually he had given away so much that he became as destitute as the men he was helping. When the lease ran out on his flat, he took to squatting, moving often, somehow continuing to do research as well.

By the end of 1974, Price had given up everything. Some time before dawn on 6 January 1975, in a squat not far from Euston, he killed himself.

How discovering an equation for altruism cost George Price everything

Quote of the Day

So far we have no f***g idea how the brain of the worm C elegans works, which has around three hundred neurons. C elegans was the first living unit to have its gene sequenced. Now consider that the human brain has about one hundred billion neurons. and that going from 300 to 301 neurons may double the complexity. [I have actually found situations where a single additional dimension may more than double some aspect of the complexity, say going from a 1000 to 1001 may cause complexity to be multiplied by a billion times.] So use of never here is appropriate. And if you also want to understand why, in spite of the trumpeted “advances” in sequencing the DNA, we are largely unable to get information except in small isolated pockets of some diseases.

- Nassim Taleb, Where You Cannot Generalize from Knowledge of Parts

Friday, September 16, 2016

Quote of the Day

Listening to the data is important… but so is experience and intuition. After all, what is intuition at its best but large amounts of data of all kinds filtered through a human brain rather than a math model?

– Steve Lohr

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Quote of the Day

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Quote of the Day

People who think seriously and deeply are on bad terms with the public.

- J.W. von Goethe

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Quote of the Day

Many persons after once they become learned cease to be good: all other knowledge is hurtful to him who has not the science of honesty and good-nature.

- Michel de Montaigne

Monday, September 12, 2016

Quote of the Day

When a man reflects on his physical or moral state, he usually decides that he is ill.

- J.W. von Goethe

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

I first read Carse’s book almost 25 years ago. It is one of those books that I keep returning to and finding new insight each time.  I am amazed that this book hasn't received more attention over the years. It's provocative and full of paradox, something that pulls me in every time.

Like any good book, it's difficult to summarize.  Carse makes the case that the world and our experience of it can be divided into at least two different types of games - finite and infinite games. “A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.” As its name suggests, a finite game has a definitive end and a defined number of players.  Infinite games in contrast transcend time and invite anyone who is willing to play to join in.

The rules of a finite game are set in advance and cannot be changed. On the other hand, the rules of an infinite game can and must evolve to ensure the continuation and expansion of the game.  “Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.” Finite players seek predictability while infinite players embrace unpredictability. “Surprise causes finite play to end; it is the reason for infinite play to continue.”

Finite games are ultimately power games – acquiring power, expanding power and retaining power. Infinite games are not about power but strength. “Strength is paradoxical. I am not strong because I can force others to do what I wish as a result of my play with them, but because I can allow them to do what they wish in the course of my play with them.” Finite play requires perception of great power while infinite play encourages expression of vulnerability – “exposing one’s ceaseless growth, the dynamic self that has yet to be.”

Finite games are serious while an infinite game is playful.

Seriousness always has to do with an established script, an ordering of affairs completed somewhere outside the range of our influence. We are playful when we engage others at the level of choice, when there is no telling in advance where our relationship with them will come out . . . . seriousness is a dread of the unpredictable outcome of open possibility. To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion. To be playful is to allow for possibility, whatever the cost to oneself.
This is just a small taste of the distinction that Carse draws between these two forms of games. I urge you to read his book to see how he draws distinctions between society and culture, theatricality and drama, curing and healing, and machinery and nature by exploring the contrast between finite and infinite games.

- Brilliant review of James P. Carse's book Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility. I have never read this book and clearly this is a must read.

Quote of the Day

Be free from vanity and pride. Be free from belief, disbelief, convictions, and parties. Be free from habit. Be free from ambition and greed. Be free from family and surroundings. Be free from fanaticism. Be free from fate; be master of your own life. Be free from death; life depends on the will of others, but death on our own will.

- Sarah Bakewell, How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

Friday, September 9, 2016

Quote of the Day

The capitalist and consumerist ethics are two sides of the same coin, a merger of two commandments. The supreme commandment of the rich is ‘Invest!’ The supreme commandment of the rest of us is ‘Buy!’ The capitalist–consumerist ethic is revolutionary in another respect. Most previous ethical systems presented people with a pretty tough deal. They were promised paradise, but only if they cultivated compassion and tolerance, overcame craving and anger, and restrained their selfish interests. This was too tough for most. The history of ethics is a sad tale of wonderful ideals that nobody can live up to. Most Christians did not imitate Christ, most Buddhists failed to follow Buddha, and most Confucians would have caused Confucius a temper tantrum. In contrast, most people today successfully live up to the capitalist–consumerist ideal. The new ethic promises paradise on condition that the rich remain greedy and spend their time making more money and that the masses give free reign to their cravings and passions and buy more and more. This is the first religion in history whose followers actually do what they are asked to do. How though do we know that we'll really get paradise in return? We've seen it on television.

- Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Quote of the Day

Humanity is exalted not because we are so far above other living creatures, but because knowing them well elevates the very concept of life.

- Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Quote of the Day

Constant awareness that everything is born from change. The knowledge that there is nothing nature loves more than to alter what exists and to make new things like it. All that exists is the seed of what will emerge from it. You think the only seeds are the ones that make plants and children? Go deeper.

Some people, when they do someone a favor, are always looking to call it in. And some aren’t, but they’re still aware of it—still regard it as a debt. But others don’t even do that. They’re like a vine that produces grapes without looking for anything in return.

People exist for one another. You can instruct or endure them.

You participate in a society by your existence. Then participate in its life through your actions—all your actions. Any action not directed toward a social end is a disturbance to your life, an obstacle to wholeness, a source of dissension.

To enter others’ minds and let them enter yours.

A branch cut away from the branch beside it is simultaneously cut away from the whole tree. So too a human being separated from another is cut loose from the whole community. The branch is cut off by someone else. But people cut themselves off—through hatred, through rejection—and don’t realize that they’re cutting themselves off from the whole civic enterprise… We can reattach ourselves and become once more components of the whole. But if the rupture is too often repeated, it makes the severed part hard to reconnect, and to restore. You can see the difference between the branch that’s been there since the beginning, remaining on the tree and growing with it, and the one that’s been cut off and grafted back.

- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Monday, September 5, 2016

Review of Yuval Noah Harar's new book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Harari is careful not to predict that these outlandish visions will come to pass. The future is unknowable, after all. He reserves his strongest opinions for what all this should mean for the current state of relations between humans and animals. If intelligence and consciousness are coming apart then this puts most human beings in the same situation as other animals: capable of suffering at the hands of the possessors of superior intelligence. Harari does not seem too worried about the prospect of robots treating us like we treat flies, with violent indifference. Rather, he wants us to think about how we are treating animals in our vast industrialised farming systems. Pigs unquestionably suffer when living in cramped conditions or forcibly separated from their young. If we think this suffering doesn’t count because it is not allied to a higher intelligence, then we are building a rod for our own backs. Soon the same will be true of us. And what price our suffering then?

This is a very intelligent book, full of sharp insights and mordant wit. But as Harari would probably be the first to admit, it’s only intelligent by human standards, which are nothing special. By the standards of the smartest machines it’s woolly and speculative. The datasets are pretty limited. Its real power comes from the sense of a distinctive consciousness behind it. It is a quirky and cool book, with a sliver of ice at its heart. Harari cares about the fate of animals in a human world but he writes about the prospects for homo sapiens in a data-driven world with a lofty insouciance. I have to admit I found this deeply appealing, but that may be because of who I am (apart from anything else, a man). Not everyone will find it so. But it is hard to imagine anyone could read this book without getting an occasional, vertiginous thrill. Nietzsche once wrote that humanity is about to set sail on an open sea, now that we have finally left Christian morality behind. Homo Deus makes it feel as if we are standing at the edge of a cliff after a long and arduous journey. The journey doesn’t seem so important any more. We are about to step into thin air.

- Review of Yuval Noah Harar's new book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Quote of the Day

We understand the world by how we retrieve memories, re-order information into stories to justify how we feel.

- Stephen Elliott, The Adderall Diaries

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Quote of the Day

Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.

- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

The problem of evil is always, to some extent, a problem of naming. Hannah Arendt understood this better than most. She saw, when others did not, that the absence of clear language had itself become a barrier to understanding 20th-century evil. In The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), she argued that, if you’re trying to make sense of Nazism and Stalinism, words like “fascist” and “communist”, “right-wing” and “left-wing”, aren’t particularly helpful. Among other things, these labels belie the degree to which Hitler and Stalin transcended traditional political divides to forge nightmarish states that were eerily similar to each other. Stalin’s Soviet Union was, Arendt argued, best understood as a totalitarian state, not a communist state. Nassim Nicholas Taleb has just made a strikingly similar claim about the 21st-century evil known as Salafism.

Salafism Isn’t Really a Religion

Quote of the Day

Data Science wisdom comes only through failed experimentation.

- Damian Mingle

Friday, September 2, 2016

Quote of the Day

The younger we are, the more each individual object represents for us the whole class to which it belongs.

- Arthur Schopenhauer

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Quote of the Day

When Charles Darwin was trying to decide whether he should propose to his cousin Emma Wedgwood, he got out a pencil and paper and weighed every possible consequence. In favor of marriage he listed children, companionship, and the 'charms of music and female chit-chat.' Against marriage he listed the 'terrible loss of time,' lack of freedom to go where he wished, the burden of visiting relatives, the expense and anxiety provoked by children, the concern that 'perhaps my wife won't like London,' and having less money to spend on books. Weighing one column against the other produced a narrow margin of victory, and at the bottom Darwin scrawled, 'Marry—Marry—Marry Q.E.D.' Quod erat demonstrandum, the mathematical sign-off that Darwin himself restated in English: 'It being proved necessary to Marry.

- Brian Christian, Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions