Monday, October 31, 2016

A Letter to My Daughter About Young Men

But I can tell you what to look for. Look for honor.

Look for integrity, selflessness, sacrifice, and compassion. Find those who champion justice and fidelity. But above all, seek men who emulate humility and meekness. Do not, as so many others do, be deceived into thinking it is a weakness. Meekness is strength wrapped in humility, my dear daughter. It is strength under control in a world where so many are out of control.

Do not confuse velvet words and simply holding a door open as honor. Instead, observe how he treats others, your waiter, the homeless, and the marginalized. For if you see how he treats those at their highs and lows, you’ll understand how he will treat you during your high and low points. Heed this wisdom and do not become disillusioned, for honorable men will still break your heart. A dishonorable man will break up with you via text, SnapChat (if that still exists), or simply ignore you. But an honorable man will break your heart face-to-face.

Do not despair, my daughter, for as you read this, you may be tempted to believe that honorable men disappeared in the years before you were born. They still exist. You must search to find them, and that may take many years. In your search, though, you will encounter many men without honor. Do not blame them.For they had fathers who didn’t know how to train their sons in the ways in which a man should walk. Many grew up without a male figure to explain what honor and integrity look like. Feel compassion for them, instead. Point them to other men you see acting in honorable ways.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

According to Buddhism, the root of suffering is neither the feeling of pain nor of sadness nor even of meaninglessness. Rather, the real root of suffering is this never-ending and pointless pursuit of ephemeral feelings, which causes us to be in a constant state of tension, restlessness and dissatisfaction. Due to this pursuit, the mind is never satisfied. Even when experiencing pleasure, it is not content, because it fears this feeling might soon disappear, and craves that this feeling should stay and intensify. People are liberated from suffering not when they experience this or that fleeting pleasure, but rather when they understand the impermanent nature of all their feelings, and stop craving them. This is the aim of Buddhist meditation practices. In meditation, you are supposed to closely observe your mind and body, witness the ceaseless arising and passing of all your feelings, and realise how pointless it is to pursue them. When the pursuit stops, the mind becomes very relaxed, clear and satisfied. All kinds of feelings go on arising and passing – joy, anger, boredom, lust – but once you stop craving particular feelings, you can just accept them for what they are. You live in the present moment instead of fantasising about what might have been. The resulting serenity is so profound that those who spend their lives in the frenzied pursuit of pleasant feelings can hardly imagine it. It is like a man standing for decades on the seashore, embracing certain ‘good’ waves and trying to prevent them from disintegrating, while simultaneously pushing back ‘bad’ waves to prevent them from getting near him. Day in, day out, the man stands on the beach, driving himself crazy with this fruitless exercise. Eventually, he sits down on the sand and just allows the waves to come and go as they please. How peaceful!

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

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

Sinnott-Armstrong noted that artificial intelligence and morality are not as irreconcilable as some might believe, despite one being regarded as highly structured and the other seen as highly subjective. He highlighted various uses for artificial intelligence in resolving moral conflicts, such as improving criminal justice and locating terrorists.

“You can’t tell a person to factor certain considerations out, but you can do that to a computer," he said. "There are a lot of advantages to these various uses and they’re clearly going to grow.”

He also discussed an application that he and a team of professors, graduate students and undergraduate students are currently developing—which will build human morality into artificial intelligence. By presenting users with various scenarios involving moral judgement, the application would observe how people determine which features of cases are morally relevant and then test the interaction of morally relevant features in complex cases.

These inputs would then serve as the foundation for an artificial intelligence with humans’ moral considerations programmed in, he explained.

“Our goal is to create artificial intelligence that mimics human morality to avoid doomsdays and to improve our understanding of human moral thinking,” Sinnott-Armstrong said.

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong discusses artificial intelligence and morality

Quote of the Day

Were all the geniuses of history to focus on this single theme, they could never fully express their bafflement at the darkness of the human mind. No person would give up even an inch of their estate, and the slightest dispute with a neighbor can mean hell to pay; yet we easily let others encroach on our lives — worse, we often pave the way for those who will take it over. No person hands out their money to passersby, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.

- Seneca, On the Brevity of Life

Friday, October 28, 2016

Quote of the Day

People are bad at looking at seeds and guessing what size tree will grow out of them. The way you’ll get big ideas in, say, health care is by starting out with small ideas. If you try to do some big thing, you don’t just need it to be big; you need it to be good. And it’s really hard to do big and good simultaneously. So, what that means is you can either do something small and good and then gradually make it bigger, or do something big and bad and gradually make it better. And you know what? Empirically, starting big just does not work. That’s the way the government does things. They do something really big that’s really bad, and they think, Well, we’ll make it better, and then it never gets better.

- Paul Graham, Building Fast Companies for Growth, Inc.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

PatientsLikeMe Launches Virtual Trial for ALS Patients

PatientsLikeMe began as a website for people living with ALS to openly share their experiences with each other and study alternative and off-label treatments. Vice President of Innovation Paul Wicks, PhD, said the company’s research focus gave ALS patients a science-based platform to monitor themselves, get ideas from other patients, and play a more active role in their own healthcare. That focus has also helped the company produce more than 30 published research studies on the condition, including a 2011 observational study in Nature Biotechnology that refuted the results of a 2008 clinical trial on the efficacy of lithium carbonate on ALS. More recently the company has worked with Bedlack to study the frequency of ALS plateaus and reversals. Findings from that study were recently published online and in the March 2016 print edition of the journal Neurology.

“The work we’re doing with the Duke ALS Clinic continues our focus on science that is driven by and for the unanswered needs in the ALS community,” Wicks said. “If we can harness the power of online technologies to more rapidly conduct trials, we’ll be able to conduct many more experiments with patients from around the world.”

Anyone taking Lunasin outside of the Lunasin Virtual Trial is invited to separately track their experiences on PatientsLikeMe at

- More Here

Quote of the Day

This is the mark of perfection of character — to spend each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, laziness, or any pretending.

- Aurelius, Meditations

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Quote of the Day

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Quote of the Day

The cybernetic exchange between man, computer and algorithm is like a game of musical chairs: The frantic search for balance always leaves one of the three standing ill at ease.

- Alan J. Perlis,  Epigrams on Programming

Monday, October 24, 2016

Quote of the Day

Experience has taught me this, that we undo ourselves by impatience. Misfortunes have their life and their limits, their sickness and their health.

- Michel de Montaigne

Sunday, October 23, 2016

100 Blocks a Day

Most people sleep about seven or eight hours a night. That leaves 16 or 17 hours awake each day. Or about 1,000 minutes.

Let’s think about those 1,000 minutes as 100 10-minute blocks. That’s what you wake up with every day.

Throughout the day, you spend 10 minutes of your life on each block, until you eventually run out of blocks and it’s time to go to sleep.

It’s always good to step back and think about how we’re using those 100 blocks we get each day. How many of them are put towards making your future better, and how many of them are just there to be enjoyed? How many of them are spent with other people, and how many are for time by yourself? How many are used to create something, and how many are used to consume something? How many of the blocks are focused on your body, how many on your mind, and how many on neither one in particular? Which are your favorite blocks of the day, and which are your least favorite?

Imagine these blocks laid out on a grid. What if you had to label each one with a purpose?

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Bury Trump in a Landslide.

- 14 Chapter Editorial

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

If romantic love was passionately unprincipled in the past, nowadays it has to be in conformity with human rights legislation. That’s right: you should treat this witch, or warlock, who’s ensorcelled you, with the same slightly aseptic respect with which you treat your colleagues. Wildly passionate and improbable affairs must Kitemarked, so conforming to best practice. It’s often noted that in the age where serial monogamy exists alongside the nuclear family, too much pressure is placed on our partners—we want them to be both continent and abandoned, a good friend and a demon lover. Actually, the situation is far worse even than that. We demand of our intimate relationships that they be both grand enough for eternity and sufficiently paltry to sustain the quotidian. We want our lovers to die with us as we mutually gain the very peak of sexual ecstasy—yet then arise and make us a soft-boiled egg with toasted soldiers.

It’s a recipe for failure, and that’s what I feel: a failure. As I said above, I’ve been in love with three women in my life, two men and a dog. I’ll say nothing of the human relationships—decency demands nothing less. But my dog days were instructive. Obviously the relationship wasn’t physically consummated —except with cuddles—although we slept in the same bed. No, it seems to me it’s precisely because, to paraphrase Wittgenstein, that if a dog-lover could speak, we wouldn’t understand its endearments, that we can remain so perfectly in love with them, and they with us. The species-barrier is all we can erect in lieu of the convent walls that kept Abelard and Héloïse apart. Indeed, I can’t see how anyone facing contemporary terms of endearment doesn’t feel as if they’ve failed. We fail in making our choice, which, given our belief that partner-choice is sidereally pre-ordained is really no choice at all. And we fail repeatedly in the very act of loving itself, which requires us to simultaneously be selfless and egoistic to the point of self-annihilation.

Romantic love has always been the sort of hit-man of monogamy: once the contract on you has been fulfilled, you cannot stray—the chubby demigod with the bow has put an arrow in your heart. After that a ring on your finger seems a mere formality: what’s “till death us do part” compared to eternity? The problem, however, is that the new technologies, and the social media that they support lead us, using a golden thread of machine code, through a labyrinth of possible encounters, towards people who we’re encouraged to feel should be not just compatible but ideal. Rationally, we know in our heart-of-hearts that there are indeed scores, nay, millions, of potential partners who might well become our long-term lovers, and happily so. But if there’s one thing we understand about everyman’s psychosis, it’s that it isn’t remotely rational. Moreover, its very irrationality seems connected to that idea of ourselves as being in a very important sense unique.

I too, believe everyone is unique, but only by reason of occupying unique spatial-temporal coordinates. When it comes to our personalities I’m afraid our individuality is more apparent than real: and the great paradox of the web is that we’re ever-trying to convince each other of how particular we are by sharing information about our mass pursuits. Perhaps that’s what romantic love is really all about. It’s a longing, a desire, a passion, for a state of absolute particularity, a state to which the human condition, with its all too common instinctual drives, doesn’t really obtain. No wonder we’re all either disappointed or unrequited.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.

- Rabindranath Tagore

Friday, October 21, 2016

Quote of the Day

In order to know how good you are at something requires exactly the same skills as it does to be good at that thing in the first place, which means — and this is terribly funny — that if you are absolutely no good at something at all, then you lack exactly the skills you need to know that you are absolutely no good at it.

- John Cleese on Dunning-Kruger Effect

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Quote of the Day

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.

- Will Rogers

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Quote of the Day

Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. I have only begun to learn content and peace of mind since I have resolved at all risks to do this.

- Thomas Henry Huxley, Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley - Volume 1

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Quote of the Day

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.

- Henry David Thoreau

Monday, October 17, 2016

Quote of the Day

Anyone who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.

- H.L. Mencken

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Quote of the Day

Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else ... Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.

- Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

Machine learning is like a deep-fat fryer. If you’ve never deep-fried something before, you think to yourself: "This is amazing! I bet this would work on anything!”

And it kind of does.

And in any deep frying situation, a good question to ask is: what is this stuff being fried in?


So what’s your data being fried in? These algorithms train on large collections that you know nothing about. Sites like Google operate on a scale hundreds of times bigger than anything in the humanities. Any irregularities in that training data end up infused into in the classifier.

For this reason I've referred to machine learning as money laundering for bias. It's easy to put anything you want in training data.

For example, if you go to Google translate and paste in an Arabic-language article about terrorism or the war in Syria, you get something that reads like it was written by a native speaker of English. If you type in a kid's letter from camp, or an extract from a novel, the English text reads like it was written by the Frankenstein monster.

This isn't because Google's algorithm is a gung-ho war machine, but reflects the corpus of data it was trained on. I'm sure other languages would show their own irregularities.

Prejudice isn’t always a problem. Some uses of machine learning are inherently benign. In an earlier talk, we heard about identifying poetry in newspapers based on formatting, an excellent use of image recognition. OCR is another area where there are no concerns.

Others, though, would be problematic. I’d be very wary of using “sentiment analysis” or anything to do with social networks without careful experimental design.

I find it helpful to think of algorithms as a dim-witted but extremely industrious graduate student, whom you don't fully trust. You want a concordance made? An index? You want them to go through ten million photos and find every picture of a horse? Perfect.

You want them to draw conclusions on gender based on word use patterns? Or infer social relationships from census data? Now you need some adult supervision in the room.

Besides these issues of bias, there's also an opportunity cost in committing to computational tools. What irks me about the love affair with algorithms is that they remove a lot of the potential for surprise and serendipity that you get by working with people.

- Machine Learning Is Like a Deep-fat Fryer

Quote of the Day

Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you're supposed to. Stay home on New Year's Eve if that's what makes you happy. Skip the committee meeting. Cross the street to avoid making aimless chitchat with random acquaintances. Read. Cook. Run. Write a story.

- Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Friday, October 14, 2016

Quote of the Day

Everything flows and nothing abides; everything gives way and nothing stays fixed... Cool things become warm, the warm grows cool; the moist dries, the parched becomes moist... It is in changing that things find repose.

-  Heraclitus

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Malcom Gladwell on Harm vs. Wrong

As kids, Gladwell and his brother sneaked into a neighbor’s cornfield and built a fort. His father discovered the fort, and was furious. Although they had only done about a dollar’s worth of damage to the cornfield, they had trespassed and defaced another person’s property, and therefore their actions, to their father, were immoral regardless of their consequences. “Wrong” and “harm” are separate concepts, Gladwell says, and “wrongfulness is not contingent on harmfulness.”

Gladwell argues that this is not how we make moral arguments today. Instead, we use harm as the criterion to determine whether an action is wrong.

With this distinction in mind, Gladwell returns to the question of renaming Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The fact that a premier graduate school is named for an “unrepentant racist,” as Gladwell describes Wilson, is plainly wrong. But, instead of asking the school to acknowledge this, the protesters are attempting to prove that Wilson’s name does them harm. This, Gladwell argues, is a mistake.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Stubbornness does have its helpful features. You always know what you are going to be thinking tomorrow.

- Glen Seaman

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

TripAdvisor Garners Rave Reviews for New Ethical Policies

TripAdvisor—the world’s largest travel site—has announced that it will no longer sell tickets to animal “attractions,” including elephant rides, tiger encounters, and “swim with dolphins” excursions, that put wild and endangered animals (and travelers!) at risk.

It is also working with PETA and other partners to launch a new education portal that will help inform travelers about animal-welfare concerns and issues.

TripAdvisor has long prohibited listing or posting reviews of blood sports such as bullfights and canned hunts.

- More Here

Now Is The Best Time To Be Alive - President Obama

And as I meet with these young ­people, I can’t help but wonder what might be next—what might happen at a White House Science Fair in five years or 20 years or 50 years? I imagine a student who grows an artificial pancreas right in front of the president—an idea that eventually eliminates waiting lists for lifesaving organs. I imagine the girls who discover a new fuel based on only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide; the teenager who makes voting and civic activism as addictive as scrolling through your Twitter feed; the boy from Idaho who grows potatoes from a plot of soil brought back from our colony on Mars. And I imagine some future president strolling out on the South Lawn with a student who invented a new kind of telescope. As the president looks through the lens, the girl turns the telescope to a planet she just discovered, orbiting a faraway star at the very edge of our galaxy. Then she says she’s hard at work on another invention—one that will take us there someday.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble.
- Henry Miller

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Quote of the Day

The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.

- Aldous Huxley

Monday, October 10, 2016

When Her Best Friend Died, She Rebuilt Him Using Artificial Intelligence

In the weeks after Mazurenko’s death, friends debated the best way to preserve his memory. One person suggested making a coffee-table book about his life, illustrated with photography of his legendary parties. Another friend suggested a memorial website. To Kuyda, every suggestion seemed inadequate.

As she grieved, Kuyda found herself rereading the endless text messages her friend had sent her over the years — thousands of them, from the mundane to the hilarious. She smiled at Mazurenko’s unconventional spelling — he struggled with dyslexia — and at the idiosyncratic phrases with which he peppered his conversation. Mazurenko was mostly indifferent to social media — his Facebook page was barren, he rarely tweeted, and he deleted most of his photos on Instagram. His body had been cremated, leaving her no grave to visit. Texts and photos were nearly all that was left of him, Kuyda thought.

For two years she had been building Luka, whose first product was a messenger app for interacting with bots. Backed by the prestigious Silicon Valley startup incubator Y Combinator, the company began with a bot for making restaurant reservations. Kuyda’s co-founder, Philip Dudchuk, has a degree in computational linguistics, and much of their team was recruited from Yandex, the Russian search giant.

Reading Mazurenko’s messages, it occurred to Kuyda that they might serve as the basis for a different kind of bot — one that mimicked an individual person’s speech patterns. Aided by a rapidly developing neural network, perhaps she could speak with her friend once again.

She set aside for a moment the questions that were already beginning to nag at her.

What if it didn’t sound like him?

What if it did?


Two weeks before Mazurenko was killed, Google released TensorFlow for free under an open-source license. TensorFlow is a kind of Google in a box — a flexible machine-learning system that the company uses to do everything from improve search algorithms to write captions for YouTube videos automatically. The product of decades of academic research and billions of dollars in private investment was suddenly available as a free software library that anyone could download from GitHub.

Luka had been using TensorFlow to build neural networks for its restaurant bot. Using 35 million lines of English text, Luka trained a bot to understand queries about vegetarian dishes, barbecue, and valet parking. On a lark, the 15-person team had also tried to build bots that imitated television characters. It scraped the closed captioning on every episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley and trained the neural network to mimic Richard, Bachman, and the rest of the gang.

In February, Kuyda asked her engineers to build a neural network in Russian. At first she didn’t mention its purpose, but given that most of the team was Russian, no one asked questions. Using more than 30 million lines of Russian text, Luka built its second neural network. Meanwhile, Kuyda copied hundreds of her exchanges with Mazurenko from the app Telegram and pasted them into a file. She edited out a handful of messages that she believed would be too personal to share broadly. Then Kuyda asked her team for help with the next step: training the Russian network to speak in Mazurenko’s voice.

The project was tangentially related to Luka’s work, though Kuyda considered it a personal favor. (An engineer told her that the project would only take about a day.) Mazurenko was well-known to most of the team — he had worked out of Luka’s Moscow office, where the employees labored beneath a neon sign that quoted Wittgenstein: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” Kuyda trained the bot with dozens of tests queries, and her engineers put on the finishing touches.

Only a small percentage of the Roman bot’s responses reflected his actual words. But the neural network was tuned to favor his speech whenever possible. Any time the bot could respond to a query using Mazurenko’s own words, it would. Other times it would default to the generic Russian. After the bot blinked to life, she began peppering it with questions.

Who’s your best friend?, she asked.

Don’t show your insecurities, came the reply.

It sounds like him, she thought.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

I feel I change my mind all the time. And I sort of feel that's your responsibility as a person, as a human being – to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don't contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you're not thinking.

- Malcolm Gladwell

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Does Trump's Rise Mean Liberalism's End? - Yuval Noah Harari

But history has not come to an end, and following the Franz Ferdinand moment, the Hitler moment, and the Che Guevara moment we now find ourselves in the Trump moment. This time, however, the Liberal Story is not faced by a coherent ideological opponent like imperialism, fascism, or Communism. The Trump moment is a nihilistic burlesque. Donald Trump has no ideology to speak of, just as the British Brexiteers have no real plan for the future of the Disunited Kingdom.

On the one hand, this may imply that the present crisis of faith is less severe than its predecessors. At the end of the day, people won’t abandon the Liberal Story, because they don’t have any alternative. They may give the system an angry kick but, having nowhere else to go, they will eventually come back.

Alternatively, people may look further back and seek shelter with other stories, traditional nationalist and religious tales that have been pushed to the side in the twentieth century but never completely abandoned. This is arguably what has happened in places like the Middle East, where nationalist extremism and religious fundamentalism is on the rise. However, for all their sound and fury, movements such as the Islamic State don’t offer any serious alternative to the Liberal Story, because they don’t have any answers to the big questions of our era.

What will happen to the job market once artificial intelligence outperforms humans in most cognitive tasks? What will be the political impact of an enormous new class of economically useless people? What will happen to relationships, families, and pension funds when nanotechnology and regenerative medicine turn eighty into the new fifty? What will happen to human society when biotechnology enables us to have designer babies, and to open even larger gaps between the rich and poor? You are unlikely to find the answers to any of these questions in the Bible or the Koran. Radical Islam, Orthodox Judaism, or fundamentalist Christianity may promise an anchor of certainty in a world of technological and economic storms, but in order to navigate the coming twenty-first-century tsunami, you will need a good map and a strong rudder, as well.

The same is true for slogans such as “Make America Great Again” or “Give Us Back Our Country.” You can build a wall against Mexican immigrants but not against global warming; you can cut Westminster from Brussels but you cannot cut the City of London from global financial currents. If people cling in desperation to outdated national and religious identities, the global system may simply collapse in the face of climate change, economic crisis, and technological disruption that nineteenth-century nationalist myths and medieval piety can neither fathom nor solve.

Mainstream élites therefore look in horror at events such as Brexit and the rise of Trump, and hope that the masses will come to their senses and return to the fold of the Liberal Story in time to avert disaster. But it might be much harder for the Liberal Story to survive the current crisis of confidence, because the traditional alliance between liberal ethics and capitalist economics that has long underpinned the Liberal Story may be unravelling. During the twentieth century, the Liberal Story was immensely attractive because it told people and governments that they don’t have to choose between doing the right thing and doing the smart thing; protecting human liberties was both a moral imperative and the key to economic growth. Britain, France, and the United States allegedly prospered because they liberalized their economies and societies, and if Turkey, Brazil, or China wanted to become equally prosperous they had to do the same. In most cases, it was the economic rather than the moral argument that convinced tyrants and juntas to liberalize.

In the twenty-first century, however, the Liberal Story has no good answers to the biggest challenges we face: global warming and technological disruption. As the masses lose their economic importance to algorithms and robots, protecting human liberties may remain morally justified—but will the moral arguments alone be enough? Will élites and governments go on valuing the liberties and wishes of every human being even when it pays no economic dividends to do so? The masses are right to fear for their future. Even if Donald Trump loses the coming election, millions of Americans have a gut feeling that the system no longer works for them, and they are probably correct.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

COWEN: Which of our current practices or views will in the more distant future seem crazy, or just outright wrong? To ask the Chuck Klosterman question..

KLEIN: Sure. How we treat animals. I think that how we treat animals, particularly around factory farming, and factory dairy production, etc., will be a genuine moral blight on this era. And particularly on this era, because we’re at this point now where we’re beginning to get very, very good at creating plant-based meats, and increasingly we’re moving towards lab-grown meats. We’re about to have a bunch of technological changes that will make eating very little meat or no meat, at least no factory-farmed meat, pretty easy and pretty affordable..

That tends to be something that comes along with big changes in morality. One of the ways I think about this is that I remember reading Ron Chernow’s Washington, the biography of Washington which is great. I remember being surprised by the way the Founding Fathers talked about slavery in their letters to each other. It was very much the in-vogue thing to be against slavery..

They all in their letters talked about it as a moral blight, and may it be gone from the Earth in 50 years, and the stain on this great nation, but they all just also had slaves, with the exception obviously of Hamilton. There was something in that, in that they knew it was wrong, they knew they wanted it to stop, but it was just really hard to stop it at the time. It’s how the economy worked: they already had them, and they not just kept them but added more..

Looking back, it’s unconscionable, but when I talk to virtually anyone I know, I don’t know anybody that defends factory farming as a moral part of our society. I don’t know anybody. You might hear it in reference to much poorer countries, but not to this one. So we are running around knowing that we’re causing immense, tremendous suffering to sentient beings, and I don’t know, it’s a pain in the ass to eat less meat. I think it’s going to look really bad.

-Ezra Klein on Media, Politics, and Models of the World - This is not exactly "Wisdom Of The Week" but an immense satisfaction that more people are thinking about this horror we create.

Quote of the Day

I think oysters are more beautiful than any religion,' he resumed presently. 'They not only forgive our unkindness to them; they justify it, they incite us to go on being perfectly horrid to them. Once they arrive at the supper-table they seem to enter thoroughly into the spirit of the thing. There's nothing in Christianity or Buddhism that quite matches the sympathetic unselfishness of an oyster.

- Saki

Friday, October 7, 2016

Quote of the Day

Dawes observed that the complex statistical algorithm adds little or no value. One can do just as well by selecting a set of scores that have some validity for predicting the outcome and adjusting the values to make them comparable (by using standard scores or ranks). A formula that combines these predictors with equal weights is likely to be just as accurate in predicting new cases as the multiple-regression formula that was optimal in the original sample. More recent research went further: formulas that assign equal weights to all the predictors are often superior, because they are not affected by accidents of sampling.

- Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Judge Suspends Montreal Pit Bull Ban Indefinitely

Sophie Gaillard, a lawyer for the SPCA, said the ruling is “a great victory, but the fight is far from over.” It will probably be a few months before a hearing can be held on the SPCA’s full legal appeal to have sections of the bylaw retracted, she said.

“We know, thanks to scientific research, that behaviour is unrelated to physical appearance,” Gaillard said. “What leads dogs to develop aggressive behaviour is not at all their breed, but it’s the way they’re treated, whether they’re sterilized or not, how they’re trained.”

Before the ruling came down, Coderre defended the bylaw, saying Montreal took a balanced approach to the issue in order to protect the public.

“We need to protect the people, not only when you walk with the dog, when you live with the dog,” Coderre told reporters Wednesday. “You can send me all the emails you want, I’m here to protect the population.”

City councillor Sterling Downey, a spokesperson for the opposition Projet Montréal, said the ruling proves the bylaw was rushed and poorly conceived.

“It was full of holes everywhere,” he said. “A bylaw (should) be drafted and written based on facts, science and expert opinion,” he said. “If you want to do something responsibly, then take the time to do it. This is the mayor saying, ‘Do it now, I want it immediately.’

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Some can be more intelligent than others in a structured environment—in fact school has a selection bias as it favors those quicker in such an environment, and like anything competitive, at the expense of performance outside it. Although I was not yet familiar with gyms, my idea of knowledge was as follows. People who build their strength using these modern expensive gym machines can lift extremely large weights, show great numbers and develop impressive-looking muscles, but fail to lift a stone; they get completely hammered in a street fight by someone trained in more disorderly settings. Their strength is extremely domain-specific and their domain doesn't exist outside of ludic—extremely organized—constructs. In fact their strength, as with over-specialized athletes, is the result of a deformity. I thought it was the same with people who were selected for trying to get high grades in a small number of subjects rather than follow their curiosity: try taking them slightly away from what they studied and watch their decomposition, loss of confidence, and denial. (Just like corporate executives are selected for their ability to put up with the boredom of meetings, many of these people were selected for their ability to concentrate on boring material.) I've debated many economists who claim to specialize in risk and probability: when one takes them slightly outside their narrow focus, but within the discipline of probability, they fall apart, with the disconsolate face of a gym rat in front of a gangster hit man.

- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Quote of the Day

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.

- Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Quote of the Day

True character arises from a deeper well than religion. It is the internalization of moral principles of a society, augmented by those tenets personally chosen by the individual, strong enough to endure through trials of solitude and adversity. The principles are fitted together into what we call integrity, literally the integrated self, wherein personal decisions feel good and true. Character is in turn the enduring source of virtue. It stands by itself and excites admiration in others.

- Edward O. Wilson

Monday, October 3, 2016

Quote of the Day

It is our greatest good fortune to have our failings corrected and our faults adjusted.

- J.W. von Goethe

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Quote of the Day

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.

- Carl Jung

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

The long-term goal of Hilaroo is to own a piece of land where a permanent facility will be built. This facility will host the daytime camps, allow them to run longer than four days and provide the option of longer summer sleep away camps in addition to day camps.

It will also be a place kids could come after school, have additional learning facilities, a place to come back and work once they’ve graduated, and of course, a home for rescued dogs to live until they’re adopted, or make Hilaroo their forever home.

The goal is to be working with 100 dogs and 100 kids on an ongoing basis. Kids will graduate and dogs will be rescued into forever homes, allowing us to pull more dogs that are going to be euthanized out of kill shelters and into the program to live on the land, until they too can be adopted into forever homes. The hope is that the youth who graduate will come back and work at the facility and mentor kids who are up and coming so that there’s a constant cycle of giving back.

Precipitated by youth who have attended previous programs and displayed curiosity about how to become dog trainers and photographers when seeing them at work, youth will receive trade training from people already on the property and others who will be brought in as guest speakers. For example, if there was a new building being erected on the premises, the architect would introduce himself to the youth attending the program, explain to the group what he does and how he got into being an architect. The same would be done by the builder, the plumber, the electrician…Additionally entertainment professionals, musicians, hairstylists and people with various other professions will visit to open the youths eyes to all of the things they could become and helps them see the bigger picture.

Hilaroo believes education is the foundation for a fuller life. Since many of the underserved youth either live in homes that may have 10 or more people living in a one-bedroom house and don’t have a quiet place to study, or homes where the parents aren’t around to help with schoolwork, there will be tutoring available and after school programs.

“Education is important because you need to finish high school to get any type of job, but it’s also important because you’re applying yourself to something and you’re showing up for yourself,” Hilary says.

- Vision for the Future, Hilary Swank

Quote of the Day

Speaking of palms, your right hand shares just a sixth of its microbial species with your left hand.

- Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life