Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Quote of the Day

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.

- C.G. Jung

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Quote of the Day

Patience is not simply the ability to wait - it's how we behave while we're waiting.

- Joyce Meyer

Patience is not simply the ability to wait - it's how we behave while we're waiting. Joyce Meyer
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_patience.html
Patience is not simply the ability to wait - it's how we behave while we're waiting. Joyce Meyer
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_patience.html

Monday, November 28, 2016

Quote of the Day

It’s silly to try to escape other people’s faults. They are inescapable. Just try to escape your own.

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Quote of the Day

Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible.

- Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Quote of the Day

Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible.

- Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

Parks: So, assuming consciousness is a thing, a physical thing, or an amalgam of things, what do we do with the word “mental”?

Manzotti: Good question! Actually “mental” isn’t so different, at least as regards its function, from a word like “spiritual.” Neither word has a precise referent. I’m afraid we’re going to run into a lot of words like this in the course of these conversations. It’s as if certain terms we use had been given a special license to operate outside the constraints of the physical world. The philosopher Sidney Shoemaker observed that the notion of the “mental” amounts to a kind of ontological dustbin. Anything that doesn’t fit with our current picture of physical reality is moved to the bin whose main purpose is to collect together all the things we can’t explain. It’s a sort of quiet dualism: you don’t say the word “spirit,” but in fact you’re splitting the world in two.

Parks: A bin is hardly flattering. Surely when we talk about our mental lives we’re simply thinking of everything that makes human beings special, different—our thoughts, our language-based lucubration.

Manzotti: Absolutely. There are good reasons to be fond of a notion like “the mental,” because it places our minds above the constraints of physical necessity. It’s a comforting idea. We are above nature. We are special. We have our mental lives. Separate from the nitty-gritty of matter. Unfortunately, we have no scientific justification for this belief, which is very likely just another manifestation of what Freud described as human narcissism, the desire to believe ourselves at once at the center of the universe, yet in some way superior to and even separate from the nature around us.
How convenient, when you can’t explain something, to say, well, that means we’re special, we’re not like the rest of the natural world. But science works on the assumption that nature is one and that all phenomena must fit in the same system and obey the same laws; hence the fact that we experience the world—i.e., consciousness—must be a natural phenomenon which, like all other natural phenomena, is physical, I mean made of matter and energy.

[---]

Manzotti: There are many strands to internalism, but on the whole, and certainly initially, yes. The idea was formalized in the 1950s by people like David Armstrong and J.J.C. Smart. They advanced the idea that consciousness is neural processes, or certain neural processes. Once they’d formed this perfectly respectable hypothesis an army of scientists set about verifying it empirically. And in fact, over the past fifty years we’ve made extraordinary progress in the development of sophisticated instruments to probe and explore the brain with all its fantastically intricate electrical and chemical activity.

Parks: And?

Manzotti: Well, neuroscientists have certainly found a huge number of correlates of consciousness; that is, for all kinds of sensory experiences they have established which parts of the brain are active, and the nature of that activity. This is of enormous interest and scientifically very sound.

Parks: I hear a but coming.

Manzotti: Well, a correlate of consciousness is not consciousness. When scientists look for AIDS or DNA, they look for the thing itself, not a mere correlate. This is a problem: how to get from the neural correlate—the fact that there’s neural activity when I experience something—to the thing itself, the experience? As Bertrand Russell almost facetiously put it, when one licks chocolate ice-cream nothing in the brain tastes like chocolate. Of course an experience also has correlates outside the brain: the sensory organs—eyes, ears, nose, skin, tastebuds—not to mention the object itself that we experience, light, soundwaves, that chocolate ice-cream, whatever. Why privilege the correlates in the brain in our attempt to locate consciousness? Why…

- The Challenge of Consciousness, Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks

Quote of the Day

Concentrate every minute … on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions … you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.

You need to avoid certain things in your train of thought: everything random and irrelevant. And certainly everything self-important or malicious.

You can lead an untroubled life provided you can grow, can think and act systematically.

Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.

…your responsibilities can be broken down into individual parts as well. Concentrate on those, and finish the job methodically…

Practice really hearing what people say. Do your best to get inside their minds.

Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside.


- Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Friday, November 25, 2016

Quote of the Day

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Consider the Turkey on Thanksgiving. Specifically, Consider Not Eating It - Peter Singer

When I teach practical ethics, I encourage my students to take the arguments we discuss outside the classroom. For Americans, there is no better occasion for a conversation about the ethics of what we eat than Thanksgiving, the holiday at which, more than any other, we come together around a meal.

he traditional centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal is a turkey, so that is the obvious place to start. According to the National Turkey Federation, about 46 million turkeys are killed for Thanksgiving each year. The vast majority of them — at least 99% — are raised on factory farms. Newly hatched turkeys are raised in incubators and then debeaked before having their talons cut off. Male turkeys also have their snood removed — the fleshy erectile protuberance that grows from the forehead. All this is done without anesthetic, despite the pain it clearly causes..

The reason for these mutilations is that the birds are about to be placed in dim, poorly ventilated sheds, where they will live out the rest of their lives crowded together with thousands of other birds. The air reeks of ammonia from the birds’ droppings. In these unnatural and stressful conditions, turkeys will peck or claw at other birds, and cannibalism can occur. The snood is removed because it is often a target for pecking from other birds..

When the birds reach market weight, they are deprived of food and water, rounded up, often in a very rough manner, and transported to slaughter. Each year, hundreds of thousands don’t even make it that far — they die from the stress of the journey. If they do make it, they are still not guaranteed a humane death, because the U.S. Department of Agriculture interprets the Humane Slaughter Act as not applying to birds..

The turkeys Americans eat are not like those found in the wild; they have been altered by breeding designed to enlarge the breast. This process has gone so far that the standard American turkey, the descriptively named Broad Breasted White, is incapable of mating because the male’s big breast gets in the way. Here, I tell my students, is an interesting question to drop into a lull in conversation around the Thanksgiving dinner table. Point to the turkey on the table and ask: If turkeys can’t mate, how was that turkey produced?.


- Peter Singer

Quote of the Day

Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I've discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory-- disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.

- Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Quote of the Day

Someone who is permanently surprised that depravity exists, who continues to feel disillusioned (even incredulous) when confronted with evidence of what humans are capable of inflicting in the way of gruesome, hands-on cruelties upon other humans, has not reached moral or psychological adulthood.

- Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Quote of the Day

If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it. Your doubts and hesitations will infect your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter with boldness. Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.

-  Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

Monday, November 21, 2016

What I've Been Reading

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari. This book is scheduled to be released in Feb'2017 but I found a pre-release (or international) copy on Amazon.

I think only Harari is capable of writing a sequel which is better than his original Sapiens. This man is really passionate about animal welfare and clearly communicates what miseries we bring to their lives (if you can call it a "life" which is worse than death).

I can start quoting this entire book but please get a copy and devour it. This is one of the most important books so far in this century.

In the early twenty-first century the train of progress is again pulling out of the station - and this will probably be the last train ever to leave the station called Homo Sapiens. Those who miss this train will never get a second chance. In order to get a seat on it, you need to understand twenty-first-century technology. And in particular the powers of biotechnology and computer algorithms. The main products of the twenty-first century will be bodies, brains and minds, and the gap between those who know how to engineer bodies and brains and those who do not will be far bigger than the gap between Dicken's Britain and the Mahdi's Sudhan. Indeed, it will be bigger than the gap between Sapiens and Neanderthals.

No investigation of our divine future can ignore our own animal past, or our relationships with other animals - because the relationship between humans and animals is the best model we have for future relationships between superhumans and humans. You want to know how super-intelligent cyborgs might treat ordinary humans?  Better start by investigating how humans treat their less intelligent animal cousins.

[---]

Democracy encourages us to believe in a democratic future; capitalism doesn't allow us to envisage a non-capitalist alternative; and humanism makes it difficult for us to imagine a post-human destiny. At most, we sometimes recycle past events and think about them as alternative futures. For example, twentieth century Nazism and communism serve as a blue print for many dystopian fantasies; and science-fiction authors use medieval and ancient legacies to imagine Jedi-knights and galactic emperors fighting it out with spaceships and laser guns.

This book traces the origins of our present-day conditioning in order to loosen its grip and enable us to think in far more imaginative ways about our future. Instead of narrowing our horizons by forecasting a single definitive scenario, the book aims to broaden our horizons and make us aware of much wider spectrum of options.


Quote of the Day

The quality of your life is measured by the quality of your questions.

- Tony Robbins

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Quote of the Day

Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.
-  Albert Einstein

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

Today, that is the precise definition of epigenetics: the molecular factors that regulate how DNA functions and what genes are turned on or off, independent of the DNA sequence itself. Epigenetics involves a number of molecular processes that can dramatically influence the activity of the genome without altering the sequence of DNA in the genes themselves.

One of the most common such processes is ‘DNA methylation’, in which molecular components called methyl groups (made of methane) attach to DNA, turning genes on or off, and regulating the level of gene expression. Environmental factors such as temperature or emotional stress have been shown to alter DNA methylation, and these changes can be permanently programmed and inherited over generations – a process known as epigenetic transgenerational inheritance.

Another major epigenetic process discovered in recent years is ‘histone modification’. Histones are proteins that attach to and alter the structure of DNA, which in turn wraps around the histones like beads on a string. The combination of DNA and histone together has been called ‘chromatin structures’ – and the coils, loops and twists in chromatin structures in response to environmental stress can permanently alter gene expression as well.

More recently, researchers have documented ‘RNA methylation’ in which methyl groups attach to the genetic helper molecules, in the process altering gene expression and subsequent protein production for generations down the line. Likewise, the action of so-called ‘non-coding RNA’, small RNA molecules that bind to DNA, RNA and proteins, also alter the expression of genes, independent of DNA sequence.

All of these epigenetic mechanisms are critical and have unique roles in the molecular regulation of how DNA functions. The regulation of biology, it follows, will never involve a ‘genetic-only process’, nor an ‘epigenetic-only process’. Instead, the processes of epigenetics and genetics are completely integrated. One does not work without the other.


Darwin’s theory that natural selection drives evolution is incomplete without input from evolution’s anti-hero: Lamarck


Quote of the Day

Tyranny offers relief from the burden of sanity and a licence to enact forbidden impulses of hatred and violence. By acting on these impulses and releasing them in their subjects tyrants give people a kind of happiness, which as individuals they may be incapable of achieving.

-The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths by John Gray

Friday, November 18, 2016

Quote of the Day

It isn't normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.

- Abraham H. Maslow

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Origins of Dogs

“Ten or 20 years ago, we looked at modern dogs and modern wolves, and that’s it,” says German geneticist Olaf Thalmann, currently at Poland’s Poznan University of Medical Sciences. “We have realized this is wrong. Now we’re going back to the cradle of domestication to look for answers there [because] the wolves we see today are not what gave rise to dogs.”

DNA in this ancient Irish dog’s temporal bone is distinct from modern dogs and wolves. It’s evidence that dogs had multiple origins.

In June, Science published a paper that heralds the new direction of research. According to the study, dogs were domesticated not once but twice, on opposite ends of the Eurasian continent at least 15,000 years ago. Previous studies assumed that domestication was a difficult and thus rare event, occurring only once. But the new dual-origin theory found that an ancient European population was replaced by an eastern Asian population as the latter expanded across the continent. Every dog alive today is descended from ancient Asian roots.

In addition to collecting DNA from hundreds of modern wolves as well as mutts and purebred dogs, the dual-origin researchers extracted DNA from dozens of ancient dogs, including a particularly high-value sample from a 4,800-year-old animal unearthed in Newgrange, Ireland.

“The ancient [Newgrange] dog had ancestry not found in modern dogs or in modern wolves,” says Mietje Germonpr√©, who was not part of the dual-origin team. The Belgian paleontologist has studied the remains of other older canids in Eurasia and believes some of them were early dogs — a controversial theory, but one this new research suggests may be correct.

“It’s the first hint toward what’s out there,” says Thalmann, who also wasn’t involved in the research. “It’s a wake-up call. The theory about multiple origins and timing was out there for some time, but this is the first evidence for it genetically.”


- More Here

Quote of the Day

If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.

- Cardinal Richelieu, The Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations (1896) by Jehiel K̀eeler Hoyt


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Quote of the Day

By their very nature, heuristic shortcuts will produce biases, and that is true for both humans and artificial intelligence, but the heuristics of AI are not necessarily the human ones.

- Daniel Kahneman

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Undoing Project by Micheal Lewis

Before the war, Danny and Amos had shared the hope that their work on human judgment would find its way into high-stakes real-world decision-making. In this new field, called decision analysis, they could transform high-stakes decision-making into a sort of engineering problem. They would design decision-making systems. Experts on decision-making would sit with leaders in business, the military, and government and help them to frame every decision explicitly as a gamble, to calculate the odds of this or that happening, and to assign values to every possible outcome.

If we seed the hurricane, there is a 50 percent chance we lower itsAdapted from The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, by Michael Lewis wind speed but a 5 percent chance that we lull people who really should evacuate into a false sense of security: What do we do?

In the bargain, the decision analysts would remind important decision-makers that their gut feelings had mysterious powers to steer them wrong. “The general change in our culture toward numerical formulations will give room for explicit reference to uncertainty,” Amos wrote in notes to himself for a talk of his own. Both Amos and Danny thought that voters and shareholders and all the other people who lived with the consequences of high-level decisions might come to develop a better understanding of the nature of decision-making. They would learn to evaluate a decision not by its outcomes—whether it turned out to be right or wrong—but by the process that led to it. The job of the decision-maker wasn’t to be right but to figure out the odds in any decision and play them well. As Danny told audiences in Israel, what was needed was a “transformation of cultural attitudes to uncertainty and to risk.”

Exactly how some decision analyst would persuade any business, military, or political leader to allow him to edit his tis thinking was unclear. How would you even persuade some important decision-maker to assign numbers to his “utilities” (that is, personal value as opposed to objective value)? Important people didn’t want their gut feelings pinned down, even by themselves. And that was the rub.

Later, Danny recalled the moment he and Amos lost faith in decision analysis. The failure of Israeli intelligence to anticipate the Yom Kippur attack led to an upheaval in the Israeli government and a subsequent brief period of introspection. They’d won the war, but the outcome felt like a loss. The Egyptians, who had suffered even greater losses, were celebrating in the streets as if they had won, while everyone in Israel was trying to figure out what had gone wrong. Before the war, the Israeli intelligence unit had insisted, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, that Egypt would never attack Israel as long as Israel maintained air superiority. Israel had maintained air superiority, and yet Egypt had attacked. After the war, with the view that perhaps it could do better, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs set up its own intelligence unit. The man in charge of it, Zvi Lanir, sought Danny’s help. In the end, Danny and Lanir conducted an elaborate exercise in decision analysis. Its basic idea was to introduce a new rigor in dealing with questions of national security. “We started with the idea that we should get rid of the usual intelligence report,” said Danny. “Intelligence reports are in the form of essays. And essays have the characteristic that they can be understood any way you damn well please.” In place of the essay, Danny wanted to give Israel’s leaders probabilities, in numerical form.

[---]

Danny and Lanir then presented their probabilities to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. (“The National Gamble,” they called their report.) Foreign Minister Allon looked at the numbers and said, “Ten percent increase? That is a small difference.”

Danny was stunned: if a 10 percent increase in the chances of full-scale war with Syria wasn’t enough to interest Allon in Kissinger’s peace process, how much would it take to turn his head? That number represented the best estimate of the odds. Apparently, the foreign minister didn’t want to rely on the best estimates. He preferred his own internal probability calculator: his gut. “That was the moment I gave up on decision analysis,” said Danny. “No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.” As Danny and Lanir wrote, decades later, after the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency asked them to describe their experience in decision analysis, the Israeli Foreign Ministry was “indifferent to the specific probabilities.” What was the point of laying out the odds of a gamble if the person taking it either didn’t believe the numbers or didn’t want to know them? The trouble, Danny suspected, was that “the understanding of numbers is so weak that they don’t communicate anything. Everyone feels that those probabilities are not real—that they are just something on somebody’s mind.”


Excerpts from The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, by Michael Lewis

Quote of the Day

This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

Quote of the Day

The means of defence against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.

-  James Madison, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Quote of the Day

After all, the guy will probably resign or be impeached within a year. The future is closer than you think.

- David Brooks


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week

The mistake in the analysis lies deeper, perhaps—in the assumption that only a strange and traumatic sequence can have made this happen. What can be causing Trumpism? We ask, and seek for an earthquake, or at least a historical oddity or a series of highly specific causal events. The more tragic truth is that the Trumpian view of the world is the default view of mankind. Bigotry, fanaticism, xenophobia are the norms of human life—the question is not what causes them but what uncauses them, what happens in the rare extended moments that allow them to be put aside, when secular values of toleration and pluralism replace them.

It is a touching thing that Oscar Hammerstein had his people sing, apropos racial prejudice, that “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” Alas, as poor Oscar would have realized if he had stopped to think about the events that had led all those American soldiers and sailors to the South Pacific in the first place, you don’t have to be carefully taught to hate. The Hitlerians and the Japanese militarists hadn’t been carefully taught; they rushed to their lesson in the face of all evidence. Human groups, particularly those fuelled by religious fanaticism or the twentieth-century equivalent, blind nationalism, always tend toward exclusion. To eliminate the tribal instinct may be impossible, but to raise the accidental practice of pluralism to a principle is what enlightened societies struggle to accomplish. And they have.


It just turns out to be a horribly hard triumph to sustain. Along comes 1914, or 1933—or, God forbid, 2016—and the work comes crashing down. What really needs explaining is not why the Trumps of the world come forward and win. It is why they sometimes lose.

Not long ago, I had occasion to write of the divide in virtue that separates us from Shakespeare, making the point that Shakespeare believed in fate, order, and forgiveness, whereas we believe in history, justice, and compassion, and that, superior though our moral progress may seem, there are bitter truths in the old trinity. For, as Shakespeare would have grasped at once, there is no explaining Trump. He is one of those phenomena that rise regularly in history to confound us with the possibility—and black comedy—of potent evil: conscienceless, cruel and pathologically dishonest. That evil magnetizes followers of all kinds is another permanent truth. Overexplaining its rise is as foolish as pretending that it can be easily defeated. The threat it makes to an order that, however imperfect, is worth sustaining and defending reminds us of that order’s fragility. As to forgiveness, much will be demanded, even if the best happens—or the worst, at least, is avoided.


-  Adam Gopnik and Again Adam on What Will We Tell Our Children:

We teach our children history, and the history that many of them have learned in the past decade or so, at American schools and colleges, is, perhaps, unrealistic in remaining unduly progressive in tone. They learn about the brave path of the slaves’ fight for freedom, about the rise of feminism, and with these lessons they learn to be rigorously skeptical of the patriarchy—without necessarily seeing that the patriarchy survives, enraged. The strangest element of this sad time is surely that our departing President, a model of eloquence and reason, is leaving office with a successful record and a high approval rating. How Trump’s strange rise and Obama’s high rating can have coincided in the same moment will remain one of the permanent conundrums of our history.

The lesson of history—one of them, anyway—is that there is no one-way arrow in it, that tragedy lurks around every corner, that the iceberg is there even as the mighty Titanic sails out, unsinkable. Having a tragic view of life is compatible with having a positive view of our worldly duties. This is a big and abstract thought to share with children, of course, and perhaps, like so many like it, it is teachable only as a pained—at this moment, acutely pained—daily practice.


Jonathan Haidt had "predicted" this couple of decades ago. People read his books but when time comes to implement them, they go back to their old ways.... I think, that is one of the reasons that an ego maniac will soon have the nuclear button. Jonathan Haidt interview:



Actually, I think ... Empathy is a very, very hot topic in psychology, and it's a very popular word on the left in particular. Empathy is a good thing, and empathy for the preferred classes of victims. So it's important to empathize with the groups that we on the left think are so important. That's easy to do, because you get points for that.


But empathy really should get you points if you do it when it's hard to do. And, I think ... You know, we had a long 50-year period of dealing with our race problems and legal discrimination, and that was our top priority for a long time and it still is important. But I think this year, I'm hoping it will make people see that we have an existential threat on our hands. Our left-right divide, I believe, is by far the most important divide we face. We still have issues about race and gender and LGBT, but this is the urgent need of the next 50 years, and things aren't going to get better on their own. So we're going to need to do a lot of institutional reforms, and we could talk about that, but that's like a whole long, wonky conversation. But I think it starts with people realizing that this is a turning point. And yes, we need a new kind of empathy. We need to realize: this is what our country needs, and this is what you need if you don't want to -- Raise your hand if you want to spend the next four years as angry and worried as you've been for the last year -- raise your hand. So if you want to escape from this, read Buddha, read Jesus, read Marcus Aurelius. They have all kinds of great advice for how to drop the fear, reframe things, stop seeing other people as your enemy. There's a lot of guidance in ancient wisdom for this kind of empathy.


Quote of the Day

We do not become satisfied by leading a peaceful and prosperous existence. Rather, we become satisfied when reality matches our expectations. The bad news is that as conditions improve, expectations balloon.

- Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Republic Repeals Itself

I will leave you with these words about what has now happened to America. Someone saw it coming a long time ago:

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

That was George Washington’s Farewell Address.

A country designed to resist tyranny has now embraced it. A constitution designed to prevent democracy taking over everything has now succumbed to it. A country once defined by self-government has openly, clearly, enthusiastically delivered its fate into the hands of one man to do as he sees fit. After 240 years, an idea that once inspired the world has finally repealed itself. We the people did it.


- Andrew Sullivan

Quote of the Day

Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry.

- J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Quote of the Day

Barbarism is never finally defeated; given propitious circumstances, men and women who seem quite orderly will commit every conceivable atrocity. The danger does not come merely from habitual hooligans; we are all potential recruits for anarchy. Unremitting effort is needed to keep men living together at peace; there is only a margin of error left over for experiment however beneficent. Once the prisons of the mind have been opened, the orgy is on. … The work of preserving society is sometimes onerous, sometimes almost effortless. The more elaborate the society, the more vulnerable it is to attack, and the more complete its collapse in case of defeat. At a time like the present it is notably precarious. If it falls, we shall see not merely the dissolution of a few joint-stock corporations, but of the spiritual and material achievements of our history.

- Robbery Under Law, Evelyn Waugh

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Quote of the Day

It also happened that part of my research in risk overlaps with complexity theory. The first thing one learns about complex systems is that they are not a sum of body parts: a system is a collection of interactions, not an addition of individual responses. Your body cannot be trained with specific and local muscle exercises. When you try to lift a heavy object, you recruit every muscle in your body, though some more than others. You also produce a variety of opaque interactions between these muscles.

This complex system method applies to all situations, even when you engage in physical therapy, as I did for an injured shoulder. I discovered that doing the more natural barbell presses and (initially assisted) pull-ups, works better and more robustly than the complicated and time consuming multi-colored elastic bands prized by physical therapists. Why don’t physical therapists make you do these robust barbell exercises? Simply, because they have a rent to pay and, just as with gyms, single-exercise machines look fancier and more impressive to the laity.


- Strength Training is Learning from Tail Events, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Quote of the Day

Desperate, lonely, cut off from the human community which in many cases has ceased to exist, under the sentence of violent death, wracked by desires for intimacy they do not know how to fulfil, at the same time tormented by the presence of women, men turn to logic.

- Andrea Nye, Words of Power: A Feminist Reading of the History of Logic

Monday, November 7, 2016

Quote of the Day

Stoicism, seen this way, becomes pure robustness – for the attainment of a state of immunity from one’s external circumstances, good or bad, and an absence of fragility to decisions made by fate, is robustness. Random events won’t affect us either way (we are too strong to lose, and not greedy to enjoy the upside).

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Wisdom Of The Week


In a normal, adult human being, these things come bundled together. But in a more exotic entity they might be disaggregated. In most non-human animals we find awareness of the world without self-awareness, and the capacity for suffering without the capacity for empathy. A human-level AI might display awareness of the world and self-awareness without the capacity for emotion or empathy. If such entities became familiar, our language would change to accommodate them. Monolithic concepts such as consciousness might break apart, leading to new ways of talking about the behaviour of AIs.

More radically, we might discover whole new categories of behaviour or cognition that are loosely associated with our old conception of consciousness. In short, while we might retain bits of today’s language to describe highly exotic entities with complex behaviour, other relevant parts of our language might be reshaped, augmented or supplanted by wholly new ways of talking, a process that would be informed by computer science, by comparative cognition, by behavioural psychology and by the natural evolution of ordinary language. Under these conditions, something like ‘capacity for consciousness’ might be usefully retained as a summary statistic for those entities whose behaviour eludes explanation in today’s terms but could be accommodated by a novel conceptual framework wherein the notion of consciousness now familiar to us, though fragmented and refracted, remains discernible.

What are the implications of this possibility for the H-C plane? Figure 2 above indicates a point on the H-C plane with the same value as a human on the C-axis, but which is exotic enough to lie on the H-axis at the limit of applicability of any form of consciousness. Here we find entities, both extraterrestrial and artificial, that possess human-level intelligence but whose behaviour bears little resemblance to human behaviour.

Nevertheless, given sufficiently rich interaction with and/or observation of these entities, we would come to see them as fellow conscious beings, albeit having modified our language to accommodate their eccentricities. One such entity, the exotic conscious AGI, has a counterpart at the left-hand end of the H-C plane, namely the exotic zombie AGI. This is a human-level AI whose behaviour is similarly non-human-like, but that we are unable to see as conscious however much we interact with it or observe it. These two data points – the exotic, conscious, human-level intelligence and the exotic, zombie, human-level intelligence – define the bottom two corners of a square whose other corners are humans themselves at the top right, and human-like zombies at the top left. This square illustrates the inextricable, three-way relationship between human-level intelligence, human-likeness, and consciousness.

We can now identify a number of overlapping regions within our embryonic space of possible minds. These are depicted in Figure 3 below. On the (debatable) assumption that, if an entity is conscious at all, its capacity for consciousness will correlate with its cognitive prowess, human-level intelligence features in the two, parallel purple regions, one to the far left of the diagram and one at human level on the C-axis. The exotic, conscious AGI resides at the bottom of the latter region, and also at the left-hand end of the orange region of conscious exotica. This region stretches to the right of the C-axis, beyond the human level, because it encompasses exotic beings, which could be extraterrestrial or artificial or both, with superhuman intelligence and a superhuman capacity for consciousness. Our ‘mind children’ are less exotic forms of possible superintelligent, superconscious creatures. But the conscious exotica here are, perhaps, the most interesting beings in the space of possible minds, since they reside at the limit of what we would welcome into the fellowship of consciousness, yet sit on a boundary beyond which everything complex is inscrutably strange.


From algorithms to aliens, could humans ever understand minds that are radically unlike our own? , I think, this changed my view on Deep Learning. Just because we don't understand (yet or never) fully doesn't make it less powerful and useful. We are scared of not understanding the outputs but again that doesn't make it wrong and scary.


Quote of the Day

True humility is when you can surprise yourself more than others; the rest is either shyness or good marketing.

- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms

Friday, November 4, 2016

Quote of the Day

Stress hormones actually induce growth and release chemicals into the body that rebuild cells, synthesize proteins and enhance immunity, leaving the body even stronger and healthier than it was before. Researchers call this effect physiological thriving, and any athlete knows its rewards.

How to Transform Your Stress Into Insane Productivity

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Quote of the Day

We open our eyes and we think we're seeing the whole world out there. But what has become clear—and really just in the last few centuries—is that when you look at the electro-magnetic spectrum we are seeing less than 1/10 Billionth of the information that's riding on there. So we call that visible light. But everything else passing through our bodies is completely invisible to us.

Even though we accept the reality that's presented to us, we're really only seeing a little window of what's happening.


- David Eagleman

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Quote of the Day

Any time scientists disagree, it's because we have insufficient data. Then we can agree on what kind of data to get; we get the data; and the data solves the problem. Either I'm right, or you're right, or we're both wrong. And we move on. That kind of conflict resolution does not exist in politics or religion.

- Neil deGrasse Tyson