Friday, March 31, 2017

Sweet and Short Introduction to Complexity Science

There is a key deficit of network theory. It is that it relies on historical data to generate networks; we can see networks that have evolved and analyze them for 2008 financial crises and current products like telematics but what about networks that are yet to emerge?

Agent based modeling effectively addresses this shortcoming.  It is recognized that network theory uncovers a lot of important underlying structures that blind traditional actuarial theory. Moreover, key concepts like robustness, fragility, emergence, the topological geodesic structure into particular network models etc are likely to remain the same even though their manifestations will be different for emerging risks.

Hence, to organize behavior rules to set as base for agent based simulations, Common tools that complexity scientists use are extrapolating network trends from similar risks like extrapolating telematics network for drone insurance, game theory, genetic algorithms, heuristics and cognitive tendencies that we humans apply uncovered by behavioral finance, and neural networks.

Agent based modeling combined individual decision and network rules to model policyholder behavior, allowing us to simulate behavior at an individual level and then analyze the overall, aggregate outcomes. These models simulate the simultaneous operations and interactions of multiple individuals to recreate a system and predict complex phenomena. This process results in emergent behavior at the macro level based on micro-level system interactions.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

After his morning walk and breakfast, Darwin was in his study by 8 and worked a steady hour and a half. At 9:30 he would read the morning mail and write letters. At 10:30, Darwin returned to more serious work, sometimes moving to his aviary, greenhouse, or one of several other buildings where he conducted his experiments. By noon, he would declare, “I’ve done a good day’s work,” and set out on a long walk on the Sandwalk, a path he had laid out not long after buying Down House. (Part of the Sandwalk ran through land leased to Darwin by the Lubbock family.) When he returned after an hour or more, Darwin had lunch and answered more letters. At 3 he would retire for a nap; an hour later he would arise, take another walk around the Sandwalk, then return to his study until 5:30, when he would join his wife, Emma, and their family for dinner. On this schedule he wrote 19 books, including technical volumes on climbing plants, barnacles, and other subjects; the controversial Descent of Man; and The Origin of Species, probably the single most famous book in the history of science, and a book that still affects the way we think about nature and ourselves.

- Excerpts from the book Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Quote of the Day

The potential is great for people in the informal economy to exploit the blockchain’s middleman-free way to exchange assets and information and its irrefutable public record that’s free from the control of any one central institution.

- Paul Vigna, The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Quote of the Day

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.

- Thomas Carlyle

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Quote of the Day

Two Core Abilities for Thriving in the New Economy 1. The ability to quickly master hard things. 2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.

- Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Monday, March 27, 2017

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Wisdom Of The Week

In the past 40 years a wide range of work both in the field and the lab has pushed the consensus away from strict behaviourism and towards that Darwin-friendly view. Progress has not been easy or quick; as the behaviourists warned, both sorts of evidence can be misleading. Laboratory tests can be rigorous, but are inevitably based on animals which may not behave as they do in the wild. Field observations can be dismissed as anecdotal. Running them for years or decades and on a large scale goes some way to guarding against that problem, but such studies are rare.

Nevertheless, most scientists now feel they can say with confidence that some animals process information and express emotions in ways that are accompanied by conscious mental experience. They agree that animals, from rats and mice to parrots and humpback whales, have complex mental capacities; that a few species have attributes once thought to be unique to people, such as the ability to give objects names and use tools; and that a handful of animals — primates, corvids (the crow family) and cetaceans (whales and dolphins) — have something close to what in humans is seen as culture, in that they develop distinctive ways of doing things which are passed down by imitation and example. No animals have all the attributes of human minds; but almost all the attributes of human minds are found in some animal or other.


Next, animals’ abilities are patchy compared with those of humans. Dogs can learn words but do not recognise their reflections. Clark’s nutcracker, a member of the crow family, buries up to 100,000 seeds in a season and remembers where it put them months later — but does not make tools, as other corvids do. These specific, focused abilities fit with some modern thinking about human minds, which sees them less as engines of pure reason that can be applied in much the same way to all aspects of life as bundles of subroutines for specific tasks. On this analysis a human mind might be a Swiss army knife, an animal mind a corkscrew or pair of tweezers.

This suggests a corollary — that there will be some dimensions in which animal minds exceed humans. Take the example of Ayumu, a young chimpanzee who lives at the Primate Research Institute of the University of Kyoto. Researchers have been teaching Ayumu a memory task in which a random pattern of numbers appears fleetingly on a touchscreen before being covered by electronic squares. Ayumu has to touch the on-screen squares in the same order as the numbers hidden beneath them. Humans get this test right most of the time if there are five numbers and 500 milliseconds or so in which to study them. With nine numbers, or less time, the human success rate declines sharply. Show Ayumu nine numbers flashed up for just 60 milliseconds and he will nonchalantly tap out the numbers in the right order with his knuckles.

There are humans with so called eidetic, or flash, memories who can do something similar — for chimps, though, this seems to be the norm. Is it an attribute that chimps have evolved since their last common ancestor with humans for some reason — or one that humans have lost over the same period of time? More deeply, how might it change what it is for a chimp to have a mind? How different is having minds in a society where everyone remembers such things? Animals might well think in ways that humans cannot yet decipher because they are too different from the ways humans think — adapted to sensory and mental realms utterly unlike that of the human, perhaps realms that have not spurred a need for language. There is, for example, no doubt that octopuses are intelligent; they are ferociously good problem solvers. But can scientists begin to imagine how an octopus might think and feel?

The inner lives of other species may be a lot richer than science once thought

Quote of the Day

Learning to pause is the first step in the practice of Radical Acceptance. A pause is a suspension of activity, a time of temporary disengagement when we are no longer moving toward any goal. . . . The pause can occur in the midst of almost any activity and can last for an instant, for hours or for seasons of our life. . . . We may pause in the midst of meditation to let go of thoughts and reawaken our attention to the breath. We may pause by stepping out of daily life to go on a retreat or to spend time in nature or to take a sabbatical. . . . You might try it now: Stop reading and sit there, doing "no thing," and simply notice what you are experiencing.

-  Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Friday, March 24, 2017

Quote of the Day

The secret of a happy life is to know when to stop, and then go that little bit further.

- Colin Dexter

Thursday, March 23, 2017

AI is the New Electricity - Andrew Resigns from Baidu

Just as electricity transformed many industries roughly 100 years ago, AI will also now change nearly every major industry — healthcare, transportation, entertainment, manufacturing — enriching the lives of countless people. I am more excited than ever about where AI can take us.

As the founding lead of the Google Brain project, and more recently through my role at Baidu, I have played a role in the transformation of two leading technology companies into “AI companies.” But AI’s potential is far bigger than its impact on technology companies.

I will continue my work to shepherd in this important societal change. In addition to transforming large companies to use AI, there are also rich opportunities for entrepreneurship as well as further AI research. I want all of us to have self-driving cars; conversational computers that we can talk to naturally; and healthcare robots that understand what ails us. The industrial revolution freed humanity from much repetitive physical drudgery; I now want AI to free humanity from repetitive mental drudgery, such as driving in traffic. This work cannot be done by any single company — it will be done by the global AI community of researchers and engineers. My Machine Learning MOOC on Coursera helped many people enter AI. In addition to working on AI myself, I will also explore new ways to support all of you in the global AI community, so that we can all work together to bring this AI-powered society to fruition.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid than nature made them.

- Bertrand Russell, New Hopes for a Changing World

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Quote of the Day

Dogs are often happier than men simply because the simplest things are the greatest things for them!

- Mehmet Murat Ildan

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Problem With Facts

All this adds up to a depressing picture for those of us who aren’t ready to live in a post-truth world. Facts, it seems, are toothless. Trying to refute a bold, memorable lie with a fiddly set of facts can often serve to reinforce the myth. Important truths are often stale and dull, and it is easy to manufacture new, more engaging claims. And giving people more facts can backfire, as those facts provoke a defensive reaction in someone who badly wants to stick to their existing world view. “This is dark stuff,” says Reifler. “We’re in a pretty scary and dark time.”

Is there an answer? Perhaps there is.

We know that scientific literacy can actually widen the gap between different political tribes on issues such as climate change — that is, well-informed liberals and well-informed conservatives are further apart in their views than liberals and conservatives who know little about the science. But a new research paper from Dan Kahan, Asheley Landrum, Katie Carpenter, Laura Helft and Kathleen Hall Jamieson explores the role not of scientific literacy but of scientific curiosity.

The researchers measured scientific curiosity by asking their experimental subjects a variety of questions about their hobbies and interests. The subjects were offered a choice of websites to read for a comprehension test. Some went for ESPN, some for Yahoo Finance, but those who chose Science were demonstrating scientific curiosity. Scientifically curious people were also happier to watch science documentaries than celebrity gossip TV shows. As one might expect, there’s a correlation between scientific knowledge and scientific curiosity, but the two measures are distinct.

What Kahan and his colleagues found, to their surprise, was that while politically motivated reasoning trumps scientific knowledge, “politically motivated reasoning . . . appears to be negated by science curiosity”. Scientifically literate people, remember, were more likely to be polarised in their answers to politically charged scientific questions. But scientifically curious people were not. Curiosity brought people together in a way that mere facts did not. The researchers muse that curious people have an extra reason to seek out the facts: “To experience the pleasure of contemplating surprising insights into how the world works.”

So how can we encourage curiosity? It’s hard to make banking reform or the reversibility of Article 50 more engaging than football, Game of Thrones or baking cakes. But it does seem to be what’s called for. “We need to bring people into the story, into the human narratives of science, to show people how science works,” says Christensen.

We journalists and policy wonks can’t force anyone to pay attention to the facts. We have to find a way to make people want to seek them out. Curiosity is the seed from which sensible democratic decisions can grow. It seems to be one of the only cures for politically motivated reasoning but it’s also, into the bargain, the cure for a society where most people just don’t pay attention to the news because they find it boring or confusing.

What we need is a Carl Sagan or David Attenborough of social science — somebody who can create a sense of wonder and fascination not just at the structure of the solar system or struggles of life in a tropical rainforest, but at the workings of our own civilisation: health, migration, finance, education and diplomacy.

One candidate would have been Swedish doctor and statistician Hans Rosling, who died in February. He reached an astonishingly wide audience with what were, at their heart, simply presentations of official data from the likes of the World Bank.

He characterised his task as telling people the facts — “to describe the world”. But the facts need a champion. Facts rarely stand up for themselves — they need someone to make us care about them, to make us curious. That’s what Rosling did. And faced with the apocalyptic possibility of a world where the facts don’t matter, that is the example we must follow.

- Tim Harford

Quote of the Day

The usual duty of the “intellectual” is to argue for complexity and to insist that phenomena in the world of ideas should not be sloganized or reduced to easily repeated formulae.

- Christopher Hitchens

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Wisdom Of The Week

Monsanto isn’t evil. It’s run by a boring old bald guy named Hugh Grant, for Christ’s sake. Hugh Grant is not trying to starve or enslave the world. But, intentionally or not, he and the rest of biotech are making it easier for us to give up our food sovereignty in a broader environment where doing so seems to be the easiest option.

We’re all so “busy.” We have to feed 9 billion people. We’re running out of land and water. The climate is changing. The world demands cheap meat. We want quick solutions to these problems, within our lifetimes, with minimal impact on our lifestyles. We suck. We want technology to save us from ourselves. Maybe it’s this country’s founding Christian ethos: someone paid for our sins before; won’t someone do it again? Sorry, Hugh Grant ain’t Jesus.

Here’s more news: engineered food isn’t going anywhere. Not only because it’s profitable, but because it’s promising. Cultured meat really could be part of the solution to feeding valuable protein to the developing world while reducing herd sizes in the interest of the environment.

Hydroponics/aquaponics could be a clutch player in urban agriculture, shortening supply chains and helping make Local a pervasive concept. GMOs do have some environmental benefits that warrant exploring even by dyed-in-the-wool permaculturalists.

The answer here is not fighting engineering and innovation under the misguided notion that these things can (or should) be stopped. The answer is in refusing to surrender time-honored growing methods to the relentless march of technology — and that’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds. It’s not picketing, protesting, and writing witty essays about the evils of biotech to the adulation of the echo chamber. The answer is being for, not against, something. And it’s in the decisions each of us has control over.

It’s the decision to plant gardens; open farms and homesteads; save, share and sell seeds; raise and breed a little livestock; learn to can, salt, smoke, and butcher. It’s in the decision to travel less and plant more. To patronize your nearby farmers even if it’s inconvenient, and find ways to make it less inconvenient. To say no to cheap and processed food whenever, wherever, and if ever your budget allows. To reorient your social capital around how many plants you’ve grown, how much soil you’ve built, how many seeds you’ve saved, and how many people you’ve fed — instead of where you’ve traveled, what your job title is, who you’ve met, and how jelly everyone is of your IG feed.

Recognize the miracle that nature is, and exercise your birthright to participate in that miracle. Breathe life into it by putting your hands in the ground as often as you can. Leave Monsanto alone and lead by example. It’s just that easy, and it’s just that hard.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Friday, March 17, 2017

Quote of the Day

Intelligence seems not to originate from some outlandish formula, but rather from the patient, almost brute force use of simple, straightforward algorithms.

- Ethem Alpaydin, Machine Learning: The New AI

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Quote of the Day

No book that will not improve by repeated readings deserves to be read at all.

- Thomas Carlyle

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

Google’s 20 self-driving car crashers over 20 million miles record doesn’t translate into a prediction for the safety of self-driving trucks. A fast, hard turn of the steering wheel at high speed would set a truck to fishtailing and possibly jackknifing. From the moment the brakes are applied in a truck going 55 miles per hour, it takes well over the length of a football field for the vehicle to stop. Many avoidance algorithms for self-driving cars just don’t apply to trucks.

- David H. Freeman

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Don’t Blame That Idiot's Brain

For example, you might believe that the President is a rash person who tends to speak and act on impulse. That’s your description of his personality, but suppose you want to give a more scientific statement. So you note that in neuroscience, damage to the prefrontal cortex can produce impulsivity. Aha! So maybe Trump’s prefrontal cortex is underactive! Or maybe he has a personality disorder! Yet these aren’t explanations, let alone a scientific ones, for Trump’s rashness. They’re just more sciencey and impressive ways of saying he’s rash.

We don’t need these kinds of quasi-scientific analyses of Trump’s (or anyone’s) character. We should stick to describing and commenting on the behaviour that we can directly observe. If Trump is rash, then that’s it: he’s rash. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in his brain to make him that way. If he’s egotistic and selfish, then just say so – it adds nothing to the discussion to speculate about whether he meets criteria for ‘narcissistic personality disorder’, not to mention that such a diagnosis-at-a-distance is ethically questionable.

More broadly, as I’ve argued previously, neuroscience can answer questions about the brain but most political and social questions are about behaviour. Now, while all behaviour is the product of brain activity, it’s rarely useful to try to understand a behaviour in neuroscientific terms. If you’re thirsty, then you could make me understand your situation by saying “I’m thirsty”, and the solution would be a glass of water. A neuroscientific analysis of activity in your brain’s subfornical organ wouldn’t help anyone.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

It is impossible for anyone to write a perfectly rationally argued document without a segment that, out of context, can be transformed by some dishonest copywriter to appear totally absurd and lend itself to sensationalization, so politicians, charlatans and, more disturbingly, journalists hunt for these segments.

The Facts are True, the News is Fake, Nassim Taleb

Monday, March 13, 2017

Microbial Balance, the Brain and Athletic Performance

The gut microbiome and its influence on host behavior, intestinal barrier and immune function are believed to be a critical aspect of the brain-gut axis.1 This has important implications for athletes, as fatigue, mood disturbances, under performance and gastrointestinal distress associated with over training are common among athletes during training and competition. This is not to dismiss that exercise that does not result in overtraining also induces a level of “stress" to homeostatic mechanisms that ultimately result in training adaptations. Associated with these can be a stress-related release of catabolic hormones, inflammatory cytokines and microbial molecules all of which can influence microbial balance.

It has been suggested that gut microbiota might have a key role in controlling the oxidative stress and inflammatory responses as well as improving metabolism and energy expenditure during intense exercise.4 The exact connection between exercise-induced stress, the associated adaptations, over training, the gut microbiota and performance have not been clearly identified. What is clear is that it may be possible to design diet and supplemental strategies to optimize microbial balance and optimize performance through the gut-brain axis.1,2 For example, change in diet can significantly influence the composition of the gut microbiota composition in just 24 hours.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

My biggest problem with modernity may lie in the growing separation of the ethical and the legal.

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

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Bed of Procrustes by Nassim Nicholas Taleb - Animated

Quote of the Day

But what is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint. Those who know what virtuous liberty is, cannot bear to see it disgraced by incapable heads, on account of their having high-sounding words in their mouths.

- Edmund Burke

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Wisdom Of The Week

The things that we thought we understood about Europeans are coming unstuck as we examine the genes of more ancient people. For example, it was generally accepted that pale skin evolved so we could get more vitamin D after moving north to where there was little sun and people had to cover up against the cold. But it turns out that it was the Yamnaya people from much further south, tall and brown-eyed, who brought pale skins to Europe. Northern Europeans before then were dark-skinned and got plenty of vitamin D from eating fish.

It is the same with lactose tolerance. Around 90 per cent of Europeans have a genetic mutation that allows them to digest milk into adulthood, and scientists had assumed that this gene evolved in farmers in northern Europe, giving them an additional food supply to help survive the long winters. But Eske’s research using the genomes of hundreds of Bronze Age people, who lived after the advent of farming, has cast doubt on this theory too: “We found that the genetic trait was almost non-existent in the European population. This trait only became abundant in the northern European population within the last 2,000 years,” he says.

It turns out that lactose tolerance genes were also introduced by the Yamnaya. “They had a slightly higher tolerance to milk than the European farmers and must have introduced it to the European gene pool. Maybe there was a disaster around 2,000 years ago that caused a population bottleneck and allowed the gene to take off. The Viking sagas talk about the sun becoming black – a major volcanic eruption – that could have caused a massive drop in population size, which could have been where some of that stock takes off with lactose.”

While ancient genomics can help satisfy curiosity about our origins, its real value may be in trying to unpick some of the different health risks in different populations. Even when lifestyle and social factors are taken into account, some groups are at significantly higher risk of diseases such as diabetes or HIV, while other groups seem more resistant. Understanding why could help us prevent and treat these diseases more effectively.

It had been thought that resistance to infections like measles, influenza and so on arrived once we changed our culture and started farming, living in close proximity with other people and with animals. Farming started earlier in Europe, which was thought to be why we have disease resistance but Native Americans don’t, and also why the genetic risks of diabetes and obesity are higher in native Australian and Chinese people than in Europeans.

“Then,” says Eske, “we sequenced a hunter-gatherer from Spain, and he showed clear genetic resistance to a number of pathogens that he shouldn’t have been exposed to.” Clearly, Europeans and other groups have a resistance that other groups don’t have, but is this really a result of the early agricultural revolution in Europe, or is something else going on?

Eske’s analysis of people living 5,000 years ago has also revealed massive epidemics of plague in Europe and Central Asia, 3,000 years earlier than previously thought. Around 10 per cent of all skeletons the team analysed had evidence of plague. “Scandinavians and some northern Europeans have higher resistance to HIV than anywhere else in the world,” Eske notes. “Our theory is that their HIV resistance is partly resistance towards plague.”

It could be that the cultural changes we have made, such as farming and herding, have had less influence on our genes than we thought. Perhaps it is simply the randomness of genetic mutation that has instead changed our culture. There’s no doubt that where mutations have occurred and spread through our population, they have influenced the way we look, our health risks and what we can eat. My ancestors clearly didn’t stop evolving once they’d left Africa – we’re still evolving now – and they have left an intriguing trail in our genes.

What Does It Mean To Be Human?

Quote of the Day

Friday, March 10, 2017

Quote of the Day

You gotta challenge all assumptions. If you don’t, what is doctrine on day one becomes dogma forever after.

- John Boyd

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Quote of the Day

Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and, therefore, the foundation of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

- J.K. Rowling

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

Quote of the Day

The most important thing in life is to be free to do things. There are only two ways to insure that freedom — you can be rich or you can you reduce your needs to zero.

- John Boyd

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Quote of the Day

Don’t think about why you question, simply don’t stop questioning. Don’t worry about what you can’t answer, and don’t try to explain what you can’t know. Curiosity is its own reason. Aren’t you in awe when you contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure behind reality? And this is the miracle of the human mind — to use its constructions, concepts, and formulas as tools to explain what man sees, feels and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity.

- Albert Einstein

Monday, March 6, 2017

Facebook releases 'Prophet' -- its free forecasting tools -- for Python and R

Facebook has open-sourced its Prophet forecasting tool, designed "to make it easier for experts and non-experts to make high-quality forecasts," according to a blog post by Sean J. Taylor and Ben Letham in the company's research team. "Forecasts are customizable in ways that are intuitive to non-experts," they wrote.

The code is available on GitHub in both Python and R.

Prophet is aimed specifically at business problems such as computer infrastructure capacity planning that have at least several months of data (preferably a year or more) and issues such as seasonality, "holidays" that can affect trends (such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday for retailers), and events that can have significant impacts (such as launching a new website when trying to forecast site traffic). Prophet can also handle some missing values and outliers, the blog post said.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.

- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Quote of the Day

The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.

- The Little Minister, J. M. Barrie

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Wisdom Of The Week

The first best piece of the year; Kathryn Schulz heart breaking but yet full of wisdom in When Things Go Missing:

It is breathtaking, the extinguishing of consciousness. Yet that loss, too—our own ultimate unbeing—is dwarfed by the grander scheme. When we are experiencing it, loss often feels like an anomaly, a disruption in the usual order of things. In fact, though, it is the usual order of things. Entropy, mortality, extinction: the entire plan of the universe consists of losing, and life amounts to a reverse savings account in which we are eventually robbed of everything. Our dreams and plans and jobs and knees and backs and memories, the childhood friend, the husband of fifty years, the father of forever, the keys to the house, the keys to the car, the keys to the kingdom, the kingdom itself: sooner or later, all of it drifts into the Valley of Lost Things.

There’s precious little solace for this, and zero redress; we will lose everything we love in the end. But why should that matter so much? By definition, we do not live in the end: we live all along the way. The smitten lovers who marvel every day at the miracle of having met each other are right; it is finding that is astonishing. You meet a stranger passing through your town and know within days you will marry her. You lose your job at fifty-five and shock yourself by finding a new calling ten years later. You have a thought and find the words. You face a crisis and find your courage.

All of this is made more precious, not less, by its impermanence. No matter what goes missing, the wallet or the father, the lessons are the same. Disappearance reminds us to notice, transience to cherish, fragility to defend. Loss is a kind of external conscience, urging us to make better use of our finite days. As Whitman knew, our brief crossing is best spent attending to all that we see: honoring what we find noble, denouncing what we cannot abide, recognizing that we are inseparably connected to all of it, including what is not yet upon us, including what is already gone. We are here to keep watch, not to keep.

Quote of the Day

Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.

- Napoleon Hill

Friday, March 3, 2017

Quote of the Day

There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.

- Napoleon Hill

Thursday, March 2, 2017

What Kind Of Mind Creates A Book Like Sapiens? A Clear One

Ezra Klein: You told the Guardian that without meditation, you'd still be researching medieval military history — but not the Neanderthals or cyborgs. What changes has meditation brought to your work as a historian?

Yuval Harari: Two things, mainly. First of all, it's the ability to focus. When you train the mind to focus on something like the breath, it also gives you the discipline to focus on much bigger things and to really tell the difference between what's important and everything else. This is a discipline that I have brought to my scientific career as well. It's so difficult, especially when you deal with long-term history, to get bogged down in the small details or to be distracted by a million different tiny stories and concerns. It's so difficult to keep reminding yourself what is really the most important thing that has happened in history or what is the most important thing that is happening now in the world. The discipline to have this focus I really got from the meditation.

The other major contribution, I think, is that the entire exercise of Vipassana meditation is to learn the difference between fiction and reality, what is real and what is just stories that we invent and construct in our own minds. Almost 99 percent you realize is just stories in our minds. This is also true of history. Most people, they just get overwhelmed by the religious stories, by the nationalist stories, by the economic stories of the day, and they take these stories to be the reality.

My main ambition as a historian is to be able to tell the difference between what's really happening in the world and what are the fictions that humans have been creating for thousands of years in order to explain or in order to control what's happening in the world.


Ezra Klein: 

Before we leave the topic of meditation, I read that you do routinely 60-day retreats. That is an experience that I cannot imagine, so I would love to hear what those are like for you and what role they serve in your life.

Yuval Harari: First of all, it's very difficult. You don't have any distractions, you don't have television, you don't have emails, no phones, no books. You don't write. You just have every moment to focus on what is really happening right now, on what is reality. You come across the things you don't like about yourself, things that you don't like about the world, that you spend so much time ignoring or suppressing.

You start with the most basic bodily sensations of the breath coming in and out, of sensations in your stomach, in your legs, and as you connect to that, you gain the ability to really observe what's happening. You get clarity with regard to what's happening in your mind. You cannot really observe anger or fear or boredom if you cannot observe your breath. Your breath is so much easier than observing your anger or your fear.

People want to understand their anger, to understand their fear. But they think that observing the breath, oh, this is not important at all. But if you can't observe something as obvious and as simple as the breath coming in and out, you have absolutely no chance of really observing your anger, which is far more stormy and far more difficult.

What happens along the 60 days is that as your mind becomes more focused and more clear, you go deeper and deeper, and you start seeing the sources of where all this anger is coming from, where all this fear is coming from, and you just observe. You don't try to do anything. You don't tell any stories about your anger. You don't try to fight it. Just observe. What is anger? What is boredom? You live sometimes for years and years and years experiencing anger and fear and boredom every day, and you never really observe, how does it actually feel to be angry? Because you're too caught up in the angry.

The 60 days of meditation, they give you the opportunity. You can have a wave of anger, and sometimes it can last for days and you just, for days, you do nothing. You just observe. What is anger? How does it actually feel in the body? What is actually happening in my mind when I am angry? This is the most amazing thing that I've ever observed, is really to observe these internal phenomena.

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Quote of the Day

It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.

- Grace Hopper

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Quote of the Day

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

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