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… During the last decades of the twentieth century, the progressive, democratic vision that Nelson Mandela represented in many ways set the terms of international political debate.
… A respect for human rights and the rule of law,
… the entry of China into the world’s system of trade
… Even when those human rights were violated, those who violated human rights were on the defensive.
… Suddenly a billion people were lifted out of poverty,
… all that progress is real.
… And while globalization and technology
… an explosion in economic inequality.
… many titans of industry and finance are increasingly detached from any single locale or nation-state
… shifting profits to a tax haven with the help of high-priced accountants or lawyers, or their decision to take advantage of lower-cost immigrant labor, .. it’s just a rational response,
… while some Western commentators were declaring the end of history
… most violently with 9/11
… Within the United States, within the European Union, challenges to globalization first came from the left but then came more forcefully from the right
… populist movements—which, by the way, are often cynically funded by right-wing billionaires
… I am not being alarmist. I am simply stating the facts. Look around.
… authoritarian control, combined with mercantilist capitalism
… Who needs free speech, as long as the economy is going good?
… Social media—once seen as a mechanism to promote knowledge and understanding and solidarity—has proved to be just as effective promoting hatred and paranoia and propaganda and conspiracy theories.
… Two different narratives about who we are and who we should be.
… Where might makes right, and politics is a hostile competition between tribes and races and religions, and nations compete in a zero-sum game, constantly teetering on the edge of conflict until full-blown war breaks out? Is that what we think?
… I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision. I believe in a vision shared by Gandhi and King and Abraham Lincoln.
… we have no choice but to move forward
… The fact that authoritarian governments have been shown, time and time again, to breed corruption, because they’re not accountable; to repress their people; to lose touch eventually with reality; to engage in bigger and bigger lies that ultimately result in economic and political and cultural and scientific stagnation. Look at history. Look at the facts.
… of tribal, racial, or religious superiority as their main organizing principle
… The fact that technology cannot be put back in a bottle
… Now, I don’t believe in economic determinism. Human beings don’t live on bread alone.
… measuring their well-being by how they compare to their neighbors, and whether their children can expect to live a better life.
… not involve unregulated, unbridled, unethical capitalism.
… Sustainable Development Goals
… artificial intelligence is here, and it is accelerating
… universal income .. work week
… the French football team that just won the World Cup. Because not all of those folks look like Gauls to me. But they’re French. They’re French.
… newcomers should make an effort to adapt to the language and customs of their new home. Those are legitimate things,
… democracy is about more than just elections
… No individual—not Mandela, not Obama—are entirely immune to the corrupting influences of absolute power
… We have to stop pretending that countries that just hold an election where sometimes the winner somehow magically gets ninety per cent of the vote
… the efficiency that’s offered by an autocrat, that’s a false promise
… teaching our children, and ourselves, to engage with people not only who look different but who hold different views. This is hard.
… it would be possible to arrive at a basis for common ground. I should add: for this to work, we have to actually believe in an objective reality.
… when almost all of the world’s scientists tell us it is.
… to reject the very concept of objective truth.
… We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders,
… our schools teach critical thinking to our young people
… the end of democracy and the triumph of tribalism and the strongman. We have to resist that cynicism.
… So, young people who are in the audience, who are listening, my message to you is simple: keep believing, keep marching, keep building, keep raising your voice.
… People must learn to hate, and, if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart.” Love comes more naturally to the human heart; let’s remember that truth. /18-07-22
computer programming to a vast new audience
… a technological version of the Monty Python character who accidentally became the Messiah in the film “Life of Brian”.
… professional developers—nearly 40% of whom use it, with a further 25% wishing to do so, according to Stack Overflow, a programming forum—but also with ordinary folk.
… offering computer science to all, and in primary schools.
… In the 1960s, Fortran bestrode the world. As teaching languages for neophytes, both Basic and Pascal had their moments in the sun. /18-07-20
perception may be thought of as a “controlled hallucination”
… the brain’s expectations and predictions about reality rather than the direct sensory evidence that the brain receives.
… the algorithm changes the parameters of its [predictive] model in such a way that next time, when it encounters the same situation, it will be less surprised
… The predictions then get sent down as feedback to lower-level sensory regions of the brain. The brain compares its predictions with the actual sensory input it receives, “explaining away” whatever differences, or prediction errors, it can by using its internal models to determine likely causes for the discrepancies.
… predictive coding
… Bayesian Brains and Efficient Computing
… Aspects of autism .. might be characterized by an inability to ignore prediction errors relating to sensory signals at the lowest levels of the brain’s processing hierarchy.
… schizophrenia: The brain may pay too much attention to its own predictions about what is going on and not enough to sensory information that contradicts those predictions.
… perception and cognition are not that separate
… how vulnerable our mental function is.
… this research has the potential for exciting applications in machine learning.
… machines closer to intelligence
… Predictive coding “is as important to neuroscience as evolution is to biology” /18-07-16
What Religion Gives Us
… to defend religion. Respect for it has diminished in almost every corner of modern life — not just among atheists and intellectuals, but among the wider public, too.
… jihad campaigns against “infidels”
… E. O. Wilson’s claim that “for the sake of human progress, the best thing we could possibly do would be to diminish, to the point of eliminating, religious faiths.”
… we still need religion
… I do not intend to try to rescue religion as reasonable.
… Its irrationality may even be the source of its power.
… our minds are motivated primarily by ancient emotional systems
… religion can provide direct access to this emotional life in ways that science does not.
… we need religion because it is a road-tested form of emotional management.
… Religious practice is a form of social interaction
… oxytocin, internal opioids, dopamine and other positive affects
… Emotions are not true or false.
… religion is primarily therapeutic .. palliative pain management
… the atheist has no recourse to any pain management in his own life. In which case, I envy his remarkably good fortune. For the rest of us, there is aspirin, alcohol, religion, hobbies, work, love, friendship.
… cultural analgesics /18-07-16
Cardinal August Hlond
… In Poland, a revisionist manipulation of the history of the Holocaust is under way, and Pope Francis may be its unwitting ally.
… Indeed, he was the only cardinal to be arrested by the Gestapo
… “So long as Jews remain Jews, a Jewish problem exists and will continue to exist.”
… blaming Jews for their “corruptive influence on morals,” “pornography,” “fraud,” “usury,” and “prostitution.”
… Queen Jadwiga of Poland in 1997, marking the end of Communism.
… Hlond’s sainthood cause was initiated in 1992, during the Solidarity era, when his postwar opposition to the Soviets could be highlighted, and it was a failure of full moral responsibility even then. But today, with the reëmergence of anti-Semitism in Poland, … /18-07-12
Returning Humans to the Center of the Cosmos
… Anthropocene .. the warm period of the past 10–12 millennia
… Geology of Mankind
… a counter-Copernican revolution
… The Anthropocene makes humanity great again.
… chairman of the AWG, Jan Zalasiewicz
… mobile phones .. have “good fossilization potential.” The phonal layer of the Anthropocene (not to be confused with the faunal layer of the Mesozoic)
… humanity is driving a “sixth mass extinction” .. 30,000 species a year
… nature is more resilient than is generally assumed
… building a robust geosphere–biosphere complex (the ecosphere) in our Galaxy, topped by a life-form that is appropriately tailored for explaining the existence of that complex, and of itself
… Ecology is widely perceived as being a theoretical and conceptual basket case .. no known underlying regularities in its basic processes
… Since the time of Hutton, geology has struggled to study the Earth as a scientific object separate from the religious, ideological, and political persuasions of the day. With the Anthropocene, that struggle, such as it was, is over. /18-07-11
science and the humanities against each other
… "techies" .. "fuzzies" .. an unshakable stereotype
… STEM .. vita activa: practical application toward the public good
… humanities .. vita contemplativa: imagination, speculation, reflection, and an alignment with higher values beyond the "merely" practical, political, and economic.
… useful versus useless, material versus idealistic, narrowly careerist versus broadly learned.
… transdisciplinary thinking .. speak languages of multiple disciplines
… we need to eliminate the existing hierarchy of subjects /18-07-11
Thomas Bayes and the crisis in science
… Footnotes to Plato
… We are living in new Bayesian age.
… Statisticians increasingly rely on Bayesian logic. Even our email spam filters work on Bayesian principles.
… It is only over the past couple of decades that the tide has turned. //for example: AW, 1983//
… This states that the probability of A given B equals the probability of B given A, times the probability of A, divided by the probability of B.
… The focus of his paper is not his theorem, which appears only in passing, but the logic of learning from evidence.
… initial probabilities to the hypotheses
… “prior probabilities” are not always available
… instead they cooked up the idea of “significance tests”. Don’t worry about prior probabilities, they said. Just reject your hypothesis if you observe results that would be very unlikely if it were true.
… Fisherians .. Neyman-Pearsonians
… the normally recommended level was 5 per cent
… In truth, this is nonsense on stilts. One of the great scandals of modern intellectual life is the way generations of statistics students have been indoctrinated into the farrago of significance testing.
… Science is currently said to be suffering a “replicability crisis”.
… “the Bayesian brain”
… unsurprisingly, many mainstream university statistics departments are still unready
… Some defenders of the old regime have suggested that the remedy is to “raise the significance level” from 5 per cent to, say, 0.1 per cent
… a researcher shows me data that would only occur one time in a 1,000 if the position of Jupiter were irrelevant to British election results, I’ll respond that this leaves the idea of a Jovian influence on the British voter only slightly less crazy than it always was. /18-07-11
Universal Basic Income
… somewhere around a thousand dollars a month: enough to live on—somewhere in America, at least—but not nearly enough to live on well.
… Finland launched a pilot version .. not to extend
… Pilots have run in Canada, the Netherlands, Scotland, and Iran.
… Robots, we are told, will drive us from our jobs.
… new taxes on income, carbon, estates, pollution, and the like.
… Elon Musk has said it will be “necessary.”
… a society with a basic income has no pressure to pay employees a good wage
… our aptitude for managing the future is no stronger than our skill at making sense out of the past. /18-07-04
The Consciousness Instinct: Unraveling the Mystery of How the Brain Makes the Mind
Michael S. Gazzaniga
… These bondmakers and copymakers came into existence trough random molecular re-sorting. It was the existence of copymaker molecules that set the process of evolution into motion. (at 62%)
… enzymes require quantum effects and that life would be impossible in a strictly quantum world. Both are needed: a quantum layer and a classical physical layer.
… We aren't actually missing the illusion; rather, we are missing the fact that our smoothly flowing consciousness is itself an illusion. /18-07-03
AI researchers are boycotting the new Nature journal
… Academics share machine-learning research freely. Taxpayers should not have to pay twice to read our findings
… the business of academic publishing
… Nature Machine Intelligence. The publisher now has 53 journals that bear the Nature name.
… Nature is the Rolex of academic publishing. But in contrast to Rolex .. We are the watchmakers, they are merely the distributors. /18-06-28
We fear death, but what if dying isn't as bad as we think?
… eight in ten Brits are uncomfortable talking about death
… Researchers analysed the writing of regular bloggers with either terminal cancer or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) who all died over the course of the study, and compared it to blog posts written by a group of participants who were told to imagine they had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and only had only a few months to live.
… Blog posts from the terminally ill were found to have considerably more positive words and fewer negative ones than those imagining they were dying – and their use of positive language increased as they got close to death.
… some kind of acceptance and focusing on the positive because they know they don’t have a lot of time left.
… we’re also mentally adaptable. We can be happy in prison, in hospital, and we can be happy at the edge of death as well
… less negative because the mystery around death was removed.
… the UK and the US are death-denying cultures /18-06-28
Diamonds Are A Lie /18-06-28
incomprehensible rise of a charlatan despot
… Turks Voted Away Their Democracy
… they didn't get a fair vote on any level
… Chavez and Maduro and Putin and Sisi
… Those people are new to democracy. We're safe.
… The enigma of populist authoritarianism has come full circle.
… Marginal victory of dubious opacity used as a mandate to effect major constitutional changes. Personalization of power and erosion of independent state institutions. /18-06-28
Save Ignorance From AI
… tree of knowledge .. real-life decisions need to strike a delicate balance between choosing to know, and choosing not to.
… There is no protected “right not to know.”
… the patient has the right not to be informed
… not knowing the sex of an unborn child
… once big data sets have been collected, there are many ways to infer “forbidden knowledge” in circuitous ways.
… Germany passed legislation that prohibits self-driving cars from identifying people on the street by their race, age, and gender.
… But restricting data collection too severely may impede progress and undermine the benefits we stand to gain from AI. Who should decide on these tradeoffs?
… we need to create and maintain ethical standards that can survive the coming of AI, /18-06-26
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