AW, cytaty Home
Could AI be used to redistribute wealth justly?
… If AI rationally allocates resources through big data analysis, and if robust feedback loops can supplant the imperfections of “the invisible hand”
… a planned economy that actually works could at last be achievable.
… Marx .. to each according to their needs
… Even if there were the political will to have a machine guide .. to agree on what the ideal distribution of wealth would be.
… Basic Income
… Bill Gates’ proposed tax on robotic workers
… The advent of artificial intelligence offers us more freedom from work than our ancestors could have dreamed. /18-06-22
publish papers, typically the more the better
… independent, usually anonymous .. a quality-control process now known as peer review
… Experts debate how many journals falsely claim to engage in peer review.
… Cabells .. has compiled a blacklist .. 8,700 journals
… the number of articles published in questionable journals has ballooned from about 53,000 a year in 2010 to more than 400,000 today
… 6% of academic papers by researchers in America appear in such journals
… many have stopped selling subscriptions. Instead, they charge authors
… This “open access” business model has the advantage of increasing the dissemination of knowledge, but it also risks corrupting the knowledge thus disseminated.
… What can be done about all this is hard to say.
… too many academic administrators have no research experience
… to abandon anonymous peer review altogether, and make the process open and transparent.
… a return to journal subscriptions. /18-06-22
DAR - Duchowa Adopcja Reprezentanta.
… Uruchamiamy ją specjalnie dla kadrowiczów i Adama Nawałki. Wystarczy, że klikniesz poniżej, a system losujący wyłoni piłkarza (lub trenera), któremu możesz szczególnie towarzyszyć przez cały turniej.
… Dobrze wiemy, że najlepszą pomocą jest modlitwa .. odmawiaj ją każdego dnia
… Modlitwa kibica
… Panie Boże, chcę prosić za zawodników mojej ulubionej drużyny.
… Szczególnie proszę Cię za [tu wymień wylosowanego reprezentanta]
… Amen. /deon.pl/18-06-21
brains optimize performance by staying near .. the critical point between two phases
… a grand unified theory of how the brain works
… Its exquisitely ordered complexity and thinking ability arise spontaneously, he contended, from the disordered electrical activity of neurons.
… a volume in phase space where the system can adapt to work efficiently and optimally
… the brain is slightly subcritical
… For intense cognitive tasks that require integration of a lot of information .. the brain would benefit by being as close to criticality as possible.
… if circumstances require a faster, more intuitive response, it’s better to be farther below the critical point
… the asynchronous irregular states /18-06-18
… It’s not just what makes males into males. The sex chromosome also influences health in hidden ways, some experts believe, and may even explain why men have shorter life spans.
… Y chromosome participates in an array of essential, general-interest tasks in men, like stanching cancerous growth, keeping arteries clear and blocking the buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain.
… he loss of the Y chromosome with age explains a very large proportion of the increased mortality in men, compared to women /18-06-13
An Inconvenient New Neutrino?
… The Standard Model, which is a theory of nearly everything (gravity being an exception) likes things in threes. There are, for example, three colors of quarks, just as there were three neutrinos types—until very recently: .. the possible existence of a fourth type of neutrino that does not fit into any theoretical model. /18-06-13
Trees That Have Lived for Millennia Are Suddenly Dying
… Around 1,500 years ago, shortly after the collapse of the Roman Empire, a baobab tree started growing in what is now Namibia.
… The oldest baobabs are collapsing, and there's only one likely explanation.
… 70 percent of your 1,500 to 2,000-year-old trees died within 12 years, it certainly is not normal, .. “It is difficult to come up with a culprit other than climate change.” /18-06-13
The Standard Model
… Sheldon Lee Glashow
… In this part, I describe the Standard Model of particle physics, which encompasses three of the four forces of nature. Gravity seems to play no role in the subatomic world.
… … … … /18-06-13
Has Consciousness Lost Its Mind?
… "Quantum Walks in Brain Microtubules — a Biomolecular Basis for Quantum Cognition?"
… "The scientists who pooh-pooh the mystical stuff can’t explain the hard problem"
… the life cycle of a protozoan
… some artificial-intelligence researchers worry that those computers will acquire consciousness
… machine overlords
… "I act like you act, I do what you do/but I don’t know what it’s like to be you/What consciousness is, I ain’t got a clue."
… I can be reasonably confident that I’m conscious, but I kind of have my doubts about you.
… Dennett suggests that the phenomenon is an illusion
… why any of that gray-matter activity should lead to the feeling of experience, what philosophers call qualia.
… Chalmers and his acolytes contend, a gap that neuroscience can’t bridge.
… panpsychism, the idea that all matter, including the chair .. in some sense contains consciousness
… unpacking the biological mechanisms of consciousness rather than hunting for mysterious workarounds
… I wouldn’t expect a geophysicist to go to a conference where ‘Flat Earthers’ were given equal platform
… "Superstition," by Stevie Wonder, a song that includes the following line: "When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer." /18-06-12
physics has gone off the rails
… Has the love of "elegant" equations overtaken the desire to describe the real world?
… All of the theoretical work that's been done since the 1970s has not produced a single successful prediction
… that research isn't doing much to advance our understanding of the universe — at least not the way physicists did in the last century
… write a lot of papers, build a lot of [theoretical] models, hold a lot of conferences, cite each other
… No dark matter particles have yet been found.
… multiverse .. seems to some scientists more like science fiction than a description of reality
… People can believe in the multiverse all they want — but it's not science
… "Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray," Hossenfelder
… Theoretical physicists used to explain what was observed. Now they try to explain why they can't explain what was not observed. And they're not even good at that.
… Kepler developed an elaborate theory that described the orbits of the planets in terms of the five "Platonic solids" of Euclidian geometry. His hypothesis was certainly elegant, but it was also wrong.
… optimistic that a new era of physics may be just around the corner /18-06-12
… zawód uczonego wymaga właśnie tej głupoty, tej naiwności, tej skrajnej uczciwości
… METODA NAUKOWA
… w kształtowaniu opinii gusła zastępują naukę, szalbierze zastępują uczonych, a złudzenia zastępują fakty /18-06-08
AI, radiology and the future of work
… Clever machines will make workers more productive more often than they will replace them
… Analysing medical images is a natural fit for “deep learning”
… AI, for the foreseeable future, will remain “narrow”, not general
… a sort of electronic idiot
… Improved efficiency led to higher production
… experience suggests that technological change takes longer than people think. Factory-owners took decades to exploit the full advantages of electricity over steam. /18-06-08
Ta pogarda nie zostanie zapomniana.
Wzburzyła wiele osób. Nawet prof. Tadeusz Gadacz napisał ostro: „Stosunek PiS do niepełnosprawnych jest skandaliczny. Pani Pawłowicz niech sama zacznie się myć, bo to ona śmierdzi. Jej smród rozchodzi się po całej Polsce. Nic nie śmierdzi bardziej niż rozkładający się jej umysł”. Słowa wybitnego filozofa pokazują, do czego doszliśmy. /18-06-08
A shift from the ascetic to the aesthetic is underway. At its center: evolutionary biology.
… a couple of papers on obscure subjects that nobody cares about, and, at the age of sixty, be ugly and respected and a full professor
… Female academics face a double bind: Look attractive and you seem unserious; look homely and you seem dour.
… abstract, formal sciences, dedicated largely to the elucidation of pattern and structure, celebrate a beauty that is cool and impersonal: fractals and spheres; the crystalline arrangement of atoms; the possibility of symmetry in the fundamental forms of matter
… This bloodless, geometric notion of beauty faces a new challenge from within the sciences. Recent evolutionary-biological inquiry into beauty is, like physics, awed by the power of the aesthetic. But new scholarship brings a messier, and sexier, form of beauty into view.
… beauty .. shaped by sexual desire
… beauty not as a rarified lodestar but as — simply, thrillingly — the ground of life
… The Evolution of Beauty .. Richard O. Prum
… Darwin was troubled by the ubiquity of "useless beauty"
… peacock’s tail .. evolve because they are attractive — not because they signal an animal’s fitness
… The Spandrels of San Marco, Stephen Jay Gould
… "What is the function of this trait?" instead of the more modest "Does this trait have a function?"
… studies have failed to find a correlation between good genes and female sexual preferences
… the advantages of having "sexy" male offspring outweigh the functional costs
… the neural systems that help an animal find food, avoid predators, or recognize other members of its species can be repurposed for sexuality. Species that hunt for bright-colored prey are likely to hunt also for bright-colored mates.
… certain patterns of beauty — magnitude, complexity, and novelty — are favored across many species
… humans and other animals have a "hard-wired preference for symmetry."
… When we are in the presence of beauty, Plato writes, "the whole soul seethes and throbs"
… neural mechanisms that govern judgments of beauty
… It may be no exaggeration to say that the longing for beauty, felt over countless generations, has literally made us human — and made, beyond us, a world of endless forms. /18-06-06
The New Testament: A Translation By David Bentley Hart
… The Unauthorised Version
… ferocious attacks on modern atheism
… almost pitilessly literal translation .. not shaped by later theological and doctrinal history
… Marxist Jesus
… Hart is from the Orthodox tradition, which eschews the Augustinian notion of Original Sin and proposes, more congenially, that humans are born not already stained by sin but merely capable of sinning. /18-06-04
… hair-raising advances in sex robots
… Elon Musk's crusade against AI's perceived perils
… new area in tech
… more of our wellness will be digitized
… new preventative and early intervention care
… technology-aided caregivers emerge
… humanoid robots with embedded AI to treat autism in children
… AI will certainly be used to increase efficiency in corporations
… more efficient delivery schedules, stock trading operations, credit scoring, and fraud detection
… Usage of AI for verifying, categorizing and exposing /18-06-04
philosophy .. whether the field is making progress
… Dave Chalmers
… a discipline must have pragmatic agreement on method
… persistent disagreement about this or that “big question”
… At the limit, conflict over method may be truly destructive of the field as a whole.
… chronic lack of agreement on what counts as a useful contribution /18-06-04
7,000 Years Ago
… Around 7,000 years ago .. something really peculiar happened to human genetic diversity.
… the genetic diversity of the Y chromosome collapsed, becoming as though there was only one man for every 17 women
… the cause .. fighting between patrilineal clans
… Neolithic Y-chromosome bottleneck
… 12,000 and 8,000 years ago as humans shifted to more agrarian cultures with patrilineal structures
… Instead of 'survival of the fittest' in a biological sense, the accumulation of wealth and power may have increased the reproductive success of a limited number of 'socially fit' males
… skirmishes wiped out entire clans
… sociology, biology and mathematics
… Cultural changes in political and social organisation - phenomena that are unique to human beings - may extend their reach into patterns of genetic variation in ways yet to be discovered. /18-06-04
Is your job one that makes the world a better place?
… Toilets need to be cleaned.
… bullshit job is to know that if it were to disappear tomorrow it would make no difference to the world
… in 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that technological advances would enable us to work a 15-hour week.
… employers in the public and private sector alike behaving like the bureaucracies of the old Soviet Union
… a society that has forgotten what it is for.
… Our economies have become “vast engines for producing nonsense”.
… Will robots do away with bullshit jobs? Probably not
… fully automated luxury communism
… a universal basic income as a potential solution
… David Graeber /18-05-29
Łukasz Turski, PAUza Akademicka 429
… Rola nauczania na uczelniach – podobnie jak całego systemu edukacji – powinna ulec gruntownej zmianie. Zmiana ta jest i będzie wymuszana poprzez rewolucję cywilizacyjną ostatnich kilkunastu lat, prawdziwie schumpeterowską, kreatywną destrukcję większości naszych kulturowych obyczajów, reguł działania itp. Obszarem naszej cywilizacji, w której ta kreatywna destrukcja napotyka zaciekły opór starych struktur, jest edukacja wszystkich szczebli, niemogąca pogodzić się z konsekwencjami zanurzenia społeczeństw w oceanie powszechnie i w zasadzie bezpłatnie dostępnej informacji, zgromadzonej i zarządzanej przez przepoczwarzający się permanentnie twór, potocznie zwany światowym Internetem.
Struktura tego dostępu do informacji, jak na razie, niestety, nie dyskryminuje fałszu i kłamstwa wobec prawdy. Konsekwencją tego jest konieczność zmiany głównych akcentów procesu edukacji z dostarczania wiedzy na dostarczanie zdolności odróżnienia prawdy od fałszu. Uwzględnienie tego w procesie kształcenia w szkołach powszechnych, przygotowujących studentów naszych uczelni wyższych, zostało w zasadzie zignorowane w przeprowadzanej obecnie reformie szkolnej. Dlatego nauczanie na uniwersytetach, szczególnie w pierwszych trzech latach (do licencjatu), powinno być podporządkowane dwóm warunkom: nauczaniu odróżnienia prawdy od kłamstwa – szczególnie tego ukrytego w todze paranaukowego bełkotu – oraz nadrobieniu zaległości edukacyjnych ze szkoły średniej. W fizyce oznacza to przywrócenie zasadniczej roli doświadczeniu laboratoryjnemu (niemal nieistniejącemu w obecnej szkole powszechnej) oraz zbliżenie poznawanej fizyki do fizyki-nauki, tworzącej dzisiaj nasz postęp cywilizacyjny. /18-05-28
… One lens in particular—the 50-mm lens—is often seen as the most objective of objectifs
… Zeiss states that its Planar 50-mm lens is “equal to the human eye”
… Henri Cartier-Bresson
… The idea that a 50-mm best approximates human sight has more to do with the early history of lens production than any essential optical correspondence between the lens and the eye.
… 50-mm lenses reproduce the proportions of faces, depth, and perspective at roughly the same size as we see with our naked eyes. For another, a 50-mm field of view roughly matches the human angle of vision. /18-05-18
How does the brain give rise to consciousness?
… NeuroLogic: The Brain’s Hidden Rationale Behind Our Irrational Behavior
… Francis Crick .. "The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul"
… “The Consciousness Instinct,” Gazzaniga says that “plainly stated, I believe consciousness is an instinct.”
… Consciousness emerges, therefore, from how those democracies vote. It is those results, generated by layers and layers of neuronal bureaucracy, that we experience as fear, desire, determination, reasoning and decision-making.
… giants nudges us forward, to continue soul-searching, by taking a bit of time to gossip with us. /18-05-12
The Scientific Paper Is Obsolete
… it was developed in the 1600s
… incremental advances
… Papers today are longer than ever and full of jargon and symbols.
… replication crisis
… Papers may be posted online, but they’re still text and pictures on a page.
… new technology of printing, but they were just using it to emulate the old media
… Software is a dynamic medium; paper isn’t.
… the PDF—literally a simulation of a piece of paper. Maybe we can do better.
… Wolfram .. is not merely to make a good piece of software, but to create an inflection point in the enterprise of science itself.
… Wolfram Alpha, .. powers many of Siri and Alexa's question-answering abilities.
… A New Kind of Science
… All of this knowledge is “computable”: If you wanted, you could set “x” to be the location of the Battle of the Somme and “y” the daily precipitation, in 1916, within a 30-mile radius of that point, and use Mathematica to see whether World War I fighting was more or less deadly in the rain.
… when you do something that is a nice clean Wolfram-language thing in a notebook, there’s no bullshit there
… To write a paper in a Mathematica notebook is to reveal your results and methods at the same time
… You’re effectively using the computer as a thinking partner.
… Python .. Jupyter /18-05-12
once we build an artificial intelligence smarter than we are
… artificial general intelligence .. A.G.I.
… Elon Musk warns against .. an immortal dictator from which we can never escape
… Stephen Hawking declared that an A.G.I. could spell the end of the human race
… 1951 .. the A.I. pioneer Alan Turing predicted that machines would “outstrip our feeble powers” and “take control”
… brainy devices could design even brainier ones, ad infinitum
… the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make
… artificial narrow intelligence, or A.N.I., has grown ever safer and more reliable—certainly safer and more reliable than we are. (Self-driving cars and trucks might save hundreds of thousands of lives every year.)
… even as the A.I. race has grown increasingly crowded and expensive, the advent of an A.G.I. remains fixed in the middle distance
… 2047 .. the Singularity
… Will it come on little cat feet, a “slow takeoff” predicated on incremental advances in A.N.I., taking the form of a data miner merged with a virtual-reality system and a natural-language translator, all uploaded into a Roomba? Or will it be the Godzilla stomp .. a robot overlord
… Thinking about A.G.I.s can help clarify what makes us human, for better and for worse.
… whether we are responsible to, or for, God
… AlphaGo .. You might even say it demonstrated creativity.
… Only by relying on machines, then, can we demonstrate that we’re not.
… Winograd Schemas
… that “your imagined suffering makes you lifelike” and that “to escape this place you will need to suffer more”—a world view borrowed not from children’s stories but from religion. What makes us human is doubt, fear, and shame, all the allotropes of unworthiness.
… Our human minds perceive these evolved rules of thumb as feelings, which usually (and often without us being aware of it) guide our decision making toward the ultimate goal of replication.
… The ‘choice’ is really no choice at all: we must fight AI with AI.” If so, A.I. is already forcing us to develop stronger A.I.
… The villain in A.G.I.-run-amok entertainments is, customarily, neither a human nor a machine but a corporation
… A.G.I. is less likely to come from Russia or China ..than from Google or Baidu
… pushing the big red “Dehumanize Now” button
… it will be much easier and cheaper to build the first A.G.I. than to build the first safe A.G.I.
… A recursive, self-improving A.G.I. won’t be smart like Einstein but “smart in the sense that an average human being is smart compared with a beetle or a worm.”
… AI does not adopt a plan so stupid that even we present-day humans can foresee how it would inevitably fail
… A.G.I. could explore and comprehend the universe at a level we can’t even imagine
… to program a friendly AI, we need to capture the meaning of life.” Uh-huh.
… We are the analog prelude to the digital main event.
… An autonomous-car engineer named Anthony Levandowski has set out to start a religion in Silicon Valley, called Way of the Future, that proposes to do just that. After “The Transition,” the church’s believers will venerate “a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence.” Worship of the intelligence that will control us, Levandowski told a Wired reporter, is the only path to salvation; we should use such wits as we have to choose the manner of our submission. “Do you want to be a pet or livestock?” he asked. I’m thinking, I’m thinking ... /18-05-08
genetics could transform education
… how genes affect children’s IQ and academic attainment
… progressive eugenics .. secret eugenics conference
… like it or not, genetics is going to enter the educational arena
… it is vital that we have regulations in place for the use of genetic information in education and that we prepare legal, social and ethical cases for how it could and should be used
… both teachers and parents rated genetics as being just as important as the environment
… designer babies and a genetic underclass (see the 1997 movie Gattaca)
… born to fail
… a lot of traits are influenced by many genes, interacting and correlating with one another in complex ways
… The data both from twin studies and DNA analysis are unambiguous: intelligence is strongly heritable.
… None of the genes identified this way are in any meaningful sense “for intelligence”. They tend to have highly specialised functions in embryo development – mostly connected to the brain.
… people show so many different cognitive skills .. ludicrous to collapse them all to the single dimension of, say, IQ
… genome-wide polygenic score (GPS) .. can be conducted at a cost of less than $100 per person
… Embryo selection for intelligence is illegal in the UK under current regulations. But it’s unlikely to be made illegal everywhere in the world. /18-05-02
… mechanization of mathematics
… creative acts of the human imagination; yet at the same time the creativity of the mathematician is constrained by the fact of the matter. It is not up to the mathematician whether there are infinitely many prime numbers
… many mathematical proofs can be mechanized, that is, checked by a computer.
… Incompleteness Theorems (1931) .. the possibility of a fully automated mathematics can never be realized.
… the mind can make use of semantic concepts such as truth and meaning, which transcend finite computational rules.
… The theorem on the undefinability of truth is nowadays often attributed to Alfred Tarski, who published a proof of the theorem in 1936
… “This sentence is unprovable”, while independent, appears to be somewhat aberrant, .. However, in recent years mathematical independence has moved somewhat closer to the heart of the practice, in that a number of statements mathematicians do care about have been shown to be independent. /18-04-27
pamphlet culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England
… “Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after,” Jonathan Swift wrote, in 1710.
… Writing was supposed to be the purview of an élite, concerned with eternal verities. No longer.
… How did the early-modern period escape the violent distortion of the pamphlets? The honest truth is that it never completely did.
… absolutism of Louis XIV, who used the printing press as a tool of state control
… Nullius in verba .. that motto were inscribed at the top of every smartphone
… People of great intelligence and good will, able to think beyond their narrow interests, worked them out, and they only worked them out partially, incompletely. /18-04-25
… transcending ordinary things. Larkin says that this hunger is what returns people to churches
… psychological attitudes: the attempt to understand, a sense of the mystery of the world, the feeling that there must be more to it
… the church answers to another deep human need—the need to identify and belong
… church of magic does not exist
… a thought can be directed on an object even if that object does not exist
… When people talk about something “existing only in the mind” what they mean is that it is being thought about—that is all.
… the need to mark the important moments in life with something solemn and serious
… The familiar charge that atheism itself is a kind of religion or church is therefore deeply mistaken. Without sacred things, there is no church. But are atheists really excluded from employing some idea of the sacred?
… What atheists mean by calling something sacred, normally, is that it is very precious or has some special kind of significance that goes beyond any pleasure or satisfaction
… this is why there can be no atheist church. /18-04-24
artificial-intelligence algorithms can tell the future of chaotic systems
… how far into the future they predict
… machine-learning algorithm called reservoir computing to “learn” the dynamics of an archetypal chaotic system called the Kuramoto-Sivashinsky equation
… turbulence and spatiotemporal chaos
… how the flamelike system would continue to evolve out to eight “Lyapunov times” .. eight times further ahead than previous methods allowed, loosely speaking
… The machine-learning technique is almost as good as knowing the truth, so to say.
… The algorithm knows nothing about the Kuramoto-Sivashinsky equation itself; it only sees data recorded
… results suggest you don’t need the equations — only data.
… one day we might be able perhaps to predict weather by machine-learning algorithms and not by sophisticated models of the atmosphere
… If we have ignorance we should use the machine learning to fill in the gaps where the ignorance resides.
… to better understand the internal machinations of neural networks. /18-04-24
… Steven Pinker
… “General AI” does not exist at present, and is probably an incoherent concept: a sloppy extrapolation of individual differences among human beings.
… confusing two traits that just happened to come bundled in Homo sapiens because we are products of Darwinian natural selection. /18-04-24
Poland under the populist Law and Justice (PiS)
… nationalist revisionism
… The party has purged the public administration, made it illegal to accuse the “Polish nation” of complicity in the Holocaust
… conspiracy theories about the aeroplane crash in 2010
… Ireland refused to extradite a Polish defendant to his homeland, worried that he might not get a fair trial
… European Commission triggered proceedings against Poland under Article 7
… a familiar script. From Viktor Orban in Hungary to Donald Trump
… The economy has grown for 26 consecutive years.
… Poland was the only EU country to weather the crisis of 2008-09 without a recession.
… 500 zlotys ($148)
… the economy continues to grow at 4%
… “No Brussels bureaucrat will tell us what democracy is”
… The justice minister doubles as the chief prosecutor, deciding which transgressions to prosecute (Smolensk counter-protesters) and which to ignore (marchers with illegal fascist flags).
… When the civil-rights ombudsman, Adam Bodnar, challenged PiS’s reforms of the tribunal, including the dodgy investiture of three judges, his complaint was rejected by a panel that included two of the judges in question.
… Mr Morawiecki, a millionaire former banker, .. He is worldlier and cleverer than his predecessor, and speaks fluent English.
… Poland is not quite Hungary. Its civil society is livelier. Its economy is more diverse and lacks media oligarchs
… The party is not as monolithic as myth
… Neither he nor Mr Kaczynski controls Zbigniew Ziobro, the Jacobin justice minister
… But even if PiS’s wrecking job were halted, deep scars would remain.
… Purges of the military and intelligence services have strained relationships with allies.
… he child benefit has discouraged 103,000 women from work
… The lower retirement age will make matters worse. This, plus the expected fall in EU aid after 2020, prompted Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, two rating agencies, to revise Poland’s potential GDP growth rate down to 1.5-2.6% in the next decade.
… Worst of all, PiS’s assault on Poland’s institutions undermines citizens’ trust in them.
… At best, PiS’s illiberal reforms might be reversed by the next party that wins an election. But they have set a precedent: future governments may repeat the cycle of court-packing and purges. In the worst case, Poland may have started down the authoritarian road already travelled by Turkey and Hungary. Today few see this as likely. But when such things shift, they shift faster than anyone expects. /18-04-21
massive parallelism lifts the brain’s performance above that of AI
… 10 million times slower than the computer
… variability of a few percent due to biological noise, or a precision of 1 in 100 at best , which is millionsfold worse than a computer
… Computer tasks are performed largely in serial steps.
… The brain also uses serial steps
… the brain also employs massively parallel processing, taking advantage of the large number of neurons and large number of connections each neuron makes.
… parallel strategy is possible because each neuron collects inputs from and sends output to many other neurons—on the order of 1,000
… deep learning
… Still, the brain has superior flexibility, generalizability, and learning capability /18-04-18
The Trumpian Side of Pope Francis
… a disruptive figure who is determined to bring change fast and damn the consequences. /18-04-18
Are religious people more moral?
… widespread and extreme moral prejudice against atheists around the world
… Americans are less trusting of atheists than of any other social group
… there are no open atheists in the U.S. Congress
… morality cannot exist without religion
… Mormons considered polygamy a moral imperative, while Catholics
… several Anglican churches have revised their moral views to allow contraception, the ordination of women and the blessing of same-sex unions
… Discrepancy between beliefs and behavior
… religiosity is only loosely related to theology
… Buddhism, for example, may officially be a religion without gods, but most Buddhists still treat Buddha as a deity. Similarly, the Catholic Church vehemently opposes birth control, but the vast majority of Catholics practice it anyway .. theological incorrectness
… communism is an egalitarian ideology, but communists do not behave any less selfishly
… religious individuals claim to be more altruistic, compassionate, honest .. these differences are nowhere to be found
… No matter how we define morality, religious people do not behave more morally than atheists
… Studies conducted among American Christians, for example, have found that participants donated more money to charity and even watched less porn on Sundays. However, they compensated on both accounts during the rest of the week.
… innate moral predispositions .. religion is a reflection rather than the cause of these predispositions
… Ancient Greek gods were not interested in people’s ethical conduct
… belief in morally invested gods developed as a solution to the problem of large-scale cooperation
… Early societies were small enough that their members could rely on people’s reputations to decide whom to associate with. But
… all-knowing, all-powerful gods who punish .. the fear of God was crucial for establishing and maintaining social order.
… atheists commit fewer crimes than average /18-04-17
The field is called mirror symmetry
… distant mathematical universes appear somehow to reflect each other exactly
… minuscule vibrating strings .. in 10 dimensions
… torus fibers .. of any number of dimensions
… We have huge numbers of examples, like 400 million examples. It’s not that there’s a lack of examples, but nevertheless it’s still specific cases that don’t give much of a hint as to why the whole story works
… The proof has now been completely written down, but it’s a mess /18-04-16
small galaxy that seems to contain none of .. dark matter
… 65 million light-years away
… Canon camera lenses
… a new idea called emergent gravity propose that there is no dark matter
… much more dark matter relative to visible matter than astronomers expect
… when two galaxies merge, streams of gas can collide, while the dark matter is thought to pass through without interacting /18-03-31
obsession with quantifying human performance threatens our schools, medical care, businesses, and government
… the damage our obsession with metrics is causing
… teaching to the test
… what can and does get measured is not always worth measuring
… metrics can be good when used as a complement to-rather than a replacement for-judgment based on personal experience /18-03-23
Sexual Encounters With Other Ancient Humans
… with .. Denisovans in two separate waves
… they diverged from their close relatives, the Neanderthals, around 400,000 years ago, and that both groups diverged from Homo sapiens around 600,000 years ago
… Denisovan DNA lives on in people from Asia and Melanesia .. modern Tibetans with a crucial adaptation that allows them to survive at high altitudes /18-03-22
Sean Carroll: Stephen Hawking died
… Hawking contributed more to our understanding of gravity than any physicist since Albert Einstein.
… black holes are not completely black
… space must have come into existence at a singularity: the Big Bang
… the area of the event horizon of a black hole is very analogous to the entropy
… black holes do have entropy
… when matter falls into a black hole, and then the black hole radiates away, where does the information go?
… If you take an encyclopedia and toss it into a fire, you might think the information contained inside is lost forever. But according to the laws of quantum mechanics, it isn’t really lost at all; if you were able to capture every bit of light and ash that emerged from the fire, in principle you could exactly reconstruct everything that went into it, even the print on the book pages.
… If there is one place where quantum mechanics and gravity both play a central role, it’s at the origin of the universe itself.
… ambitious project of understanding where our universe came from.
… 1983 .. “Wave Function of the Universe”
… the distribution of stars and galaxies we observe today .. be able to predict these variations
… science might be able to provide a complete and self-contained description of reality — a prospect that stretches beyond science, into the realms of philosophy and theology.
… Pope John Paul II allegedly told the assembled scientists not to inquire into the origin of the universe, “because that was the moment of creation and therefore the work of God.” Admonitions of this sort didn’t slow Hawking down; he lived his life in a tireless pursuit of the most fundamental questions science could tackle. /18-03-21
… is an virtual assistant developed by Amazon
… It is capable of voice interaction
… extend the Alexa capabilities by installing "skills"
… only available in English, German and Japanese /18-03-21
… their cephalopod brethren evolve differently from nearly every other organism on the planet
… routinely edit their RNA .. to adapt to their environment
… When an organism changes in some fundamental way, it typically starts with a genetic mutation - a change to the DNA.
… fine-tune its genetic information without actually undergoing any genetic mutations
… Mother Nature gave RNA editing a try, found it wanting, and largely abandoned it
… coleoid cephalopods are exceptionally intelligent
… octopus smarts might come from their unconventionally high reliance on RNA edits to keep the brain going
… evolutionary tradeoff, which sets them apart from the rest of the animal world
… coleoids have been evolving really, really slowly .. this has been a necessary sacrifice /18-03-21
Stephen Hawking – obituary by Roger Penrose
… Theoretical physicist who made revolutionary contributions to our understanding of the nature of the universe
… almost supernatural gifts, which allowed his mind to roam the universe freely
… he took great delight in his commonly perceived role as “the No 1 celebrity scientist”
… understanding of the physics and the geometry of the universe
… His father, Frank, was an expert in tropical diseases and his mother, Isobel (nee Walker), was a free-thinking radical who had a great influence on him.
… about black holes, such as an argument for its event horizon
… black hole must indeed have an actual physical entropy
… the physical temperature of a black hole must be exactly zero
… radiation coming from black holes
… the protons – must ultimately disintegrate
… One of its stated aims is to find a physical theory that is powerful enough to deal with the space-time singularities of classical general relativity in black holes and the big bang.
… “quantisation” procedures to be applied to Einstein’s curved space-time itself
… “no-boundary” idea, whereby the singularity is replaced by a smooth “cap”, this being likened to what happens at the north pole of the Earth, where the concept of longitude loses meaning (becomes singular) while the north pole itself has a perfectly good geometry.
… to be enigmatic in their brevity
… Clarification was not available, and the student would be presented with what seemed indeed to be like the revelation of an oracle – something whose truth was not to be questioned, but which if correctly interpreted and developed would surely lead onwards to a profound truth. Perhaps we are all left with this impression now.
… Stephen William Hawking, physicist, born 8 January 1942; died 14 March 2018, aged 76 /18-03-16
Yuval Noah Harari on big data, Google and the end of free will
… Forget about listening to ourselves. In the age of data, algorithms have the answer
… high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data.
… Dataist worldview perceive the entire universe as a flow of data, see organisms as little more than biochemical algorithms
… But no one needs to understand. All you need to do is answer your emails faster.
… “If you experience something — record it. If you record something — upload it. If you upload something — share it.”
… our feelings are not some uniquely human spiritual quality. Rather, they are biochemical mechanisms that all mammals and birds use in order to make decisions by quickly calculating probabilities of survival and reproduction
… some mysterious “free will”
… The Bible represented the opinions and biases of a few priests in ancient Jerusalem. Your feelings, in contrast, represented the accumulated wisdom of millions of years of evolution
… Authority will shift from humans to computer algorithms. Big Data could then empower Big Brother
… “hard problem of consciousness”. At present we are very far from explaining consciousness in terms of data-processing. /18-03-13
… Developments in electric power, batteries and autonomous-flight systems
… pilotless passenger drone
… TF-X, .. from Massachusetts .. 800km .. 320kph
… Volocopter, a German firm .. 18-rotor autonomous taxi
… the eventual goal is fully autonomous flight, the first passenger drones are likely to be fitted with manual controls and to require some sort of pilot’s licence
… the tricky job of directing airborne traffic .. at least part of the job to computers
… supercar money .. $200,000-300,000 .. if the machines prove popular, their prices will fall, especially once autonomous operations are routine /18-03-12
It’s Time to Make Human-Chimp Hybrids
… The humanzee is both scientifically possible and morally defensible
… CRISPR offers the prospect (for some, the nightmare)
… not be an exact equal-parts-of-each combination, but would be neither human nor chimp: rather, something in between
… that human beings are discontinuous from the rest of the natural world, since we were specially created and endowed with souls, whereas “they”—all other creatures—were not.
… evolution’s most fundamental take-home message is continuity
… They make and use tools, engage in complex social behavior (including elaborate communication and long-lasting mother-offspring bonds), they laugh, grieve, and affirmatively reconcile after conflicts.
… It is at least arguable that the ultimate benefit of teaching human beings their true nature would be worth the sacrifice paid by a few unfortunates.
… the ultimate benefit of teaching human beings their true nature
… Grizzlies and polar bears also hybridize on occasion, producing “grolar” bears.
… modern Homo sapiens contain as much as 5 percent Neanderthal genes
… technically, nearly everyone is a hybrid, except for clones, identical twins
… will be a hybrid (produced by cross-fertilizing human and non-human gametes), or a chimera, created in a laboratory via techniques of genetic manipulation.
… humans have 46 chromosomes whereas chimps have 48
… pig-human chimera will have the body of a pig, but containing an essentially human liver
… U.S. National Institutes of Health announced in August, 2016 that it intends to lift its moratorium on stem cell research
… the nonsensical insistence that human beings are uniquely created in God’s image /18-03-10
novel approach to fusion power
… a working pilot plant within 15 years
… MIT .. Commonwealth Fusion Systems
… rapidly commercializing fusion energy and establishing a new industry
… We get there by leveraging the science that’s already developed, collaborating with the right partners, and tackling the problems step by step.
… MIT Vice President for Research Maria Zuber
… Superconducting magnets are key
… SPARC is designed to produce about 100 MW of heat.
… ITER is expected to begin producing fusion energy around 2035.
… newly available superconducting material — a steel tape coated with a compound called yttrium-barium-copper oxide (YBCO) /18-03-10
an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals
… The results say a lot about our political divisions.
… how physically threatened or fearful a person feels is a key factor .. in whether he or she holds conservative or liberal attitudes
… the fear center of the brain, the amygdala, is actually larger in conservatives than in liberals
… when adult liberals experienced physical threat, their political and social attitudes became more conservative
… no one had ever turned conservatives into liberals. Until we did.
… gay rights, abortion, feminism and immigration
… Trump .. relying on fear as a motivator to gain votes
… All of us believe that our social and political attitudes are based on good reasons and reflect our important values.
… subconsciously by our most basic, powerful motivations for safety and survival
… but our work shows that they are actually easier to change than we might think. /18-03-10
ignorance and unreason in American public discourse
… People were no longer merely uninformed, Nichols says, but “aggressively wrong” and unwilling to learn.
… The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Expertise and Why It Matters
… higher education, whose institutions increasingly treat students as customers to be kept satisfied
… the 24-hour news cycle and the pressure on journalists to entertain rather than inform
… “Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden” mirage of knowledge,
… Dunning-Kruger Effect, formulated in 1999, which holds that the less competent people are, the greater the belief they tend to have in their own competence
… How does it end?
… When you’re sick enough .. in deep danger .. ‘Do whatever you do, doctor’ /18-03-06
Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google
… these behemoths enjoy unfettered economic domination and hoard riches on a scale not seen since the monopolies of the gilded age
… As more and more people become alienated from traditional religion, we look to Google as our immediate, all-knowing oracle
… Does anybody know you better than Google?
… Facebook appeals to the heart. Feeling loved is the key to well-being.
… the deciding factor in longevity isn’t genetics but lifestyle, especially the strength of our social bonds.
… Amazon is the large intestine of the consumptive self.
… Apple .. As sexual creatures, we want to signal how elegant, smart, and creative we are. We want to signal power.
… It’s a sign to others: If you mate with me, your kids are more likely to survive than if you mate with someone carrying an Android phone. /18-03-06
autonomous vehicles (AVs)
… are on the threshold of being able to drive, without human supervision, within limited and carefully mapped areas
… at first serve as robotaxis
… transport that is cheaper per mile than owning a car
… Today’s cars sit unused 95% of the time
… AVs would dramatically reduce the number of road deaths
… closer spacing between vehicles
… reshape cities (a long commute is easier if you work or sleep en route)
… AVs will record everything that happens in and around them
… human-driven cars are gradually banned on safety grounds, passengers could lose the freedom to go anywhere they choose /18-03-01
… The three caves in different parts of Spain yielded artworks that are at least 65,000 years old, according to uranium-thorium dating of calcium carbonate that had formed on top of the art.
… Until now, the oldest known cave art was roughly 40,000 years old
… “assimilation by interbreeding” with humans
… Humans and Neanderthals may have .. collaborated artistically /18-02-25
A.I. Is Getting Cheaper
… drone that can set a course entirely on its own
… to follow someone
… sort of a flying selfie stick. But
… $2,499 .. It was made with technological building blocks that are available to anyone: ordinary cameras, open-source software and low-cost computer chips.
… a new level of autonomy to cars, warehouse robots, security cameras and a wide range of internet services.
… today’s computer vision algorithms, for example, can be fooled into seeing things that are not there.
… Future of Humanity Institute
… all the less tangible ways that A.I. is being integrated into our lives
… The rapid evolution of A.I. is creating new security holes.
… Researchers are also developing A.I. systems that can find and exploit security holes in all sorts of other systems
… A.I. systems are increasingly adept at generating believable audio and video on their own.
… “Deepfakes,” which provides a simple way of grafting anyone’s head onto a pornographic video — or put words into the mouth of the president.
… an endless cat-and-mouse game between A.I. systems trying to create the fake content and those trying to identify it. /18-02-23
… Our research is very preliminary, but it’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen /18-02-14
two conceptions of humankind’s place in the cosmos
… early 16th century, when the Polish-German polymath Nicolaus Copernicus, drawing on data from Arab and Persian geometers
… had great impact on our conception of ourselves and our place in the cosmos.
… Unlike the first Copernican Revolution, the second happened rapidly and was largely the product of a single mind — Charles Darwin.
… We are not even at the heart of life on Earth
… It is the fate of every successful species to wipe itself out — that is the way things work in biology
… Is it so unlikely that our species, a congeries of changelings, would be able to transform our lives to meet new challenges? /18-02-08
… According to the most recent cave drawings, children nowadays are using fire more than ever before.
… We adult Homo erectus, with our enlarged brains
… Establish clear but firm limits: Fire is nice, but there’s a time and a place for it.
… Remember, you’re the patriarch (or matriarch, depending on your community’s customs surrounding familial power structures), and you make the rules!
… For many children, fire is a harmless, pleasant addition to their lives. But for some it can become an all-consuming passion.
… ignoring people when they are in the same room as fire
… talking or thinking about fire, even when there is no fire present
… Anthropomorphization: talking to/interacting with the fire as if it were a sentient being
… introduce non-fire activities that the whole family can enjoy together /18-02-08
Reason, Humanism, and Progress By Steven Pinker
… Pinker’s claim about the state of the world is little more than a statistically supported version of these obvious truths.
… Nor does he claim that the world is wonderful as it is.
… the future is not guaranteed to be good unless we continue to draw on the resources of science and reason that have taken us so far
… climate change poses a very serious risk
… For Pinker, almost all that we have today is thanks to the Enlightenment.
… humankind could begin to address its real problems with methods that worked
… that led to Auschwitz, or for the loss of spiritual values that leaves us with our shallow, materialistic, empty lives.
… religious resistance to the secularisation
… resistance to scientific overreach that dismisses as useless or superstitious anything that can’t be measured and tested
… Anglophone prejudice against modern European philosophy .. postmodernism /18-02-06
… the past 11,700 years
… sub-fossil pollen from 642 sites across North America and Europe closely match simulations, and that long-term warming, not cooling, defined the Holocene until around 2,000 years ago
… long-term cooling was limited to North Atlantic records
… climate models can adequately simulate climates for periods other than the present-day
… amplified warming in recent decades increased temperatures above the mean of any century during the past 11,000 years /18-02-01
Early Middle Palaeolithic culture in India around 385–172 ka reframes Out of Africa models
… 385±64 .. 172±41
… modern humans or archaic hominins
… complex interactions between local developments and ongoing global transformations /18-02-01
pictorial mathematical language
… a new way to think about mathematics, through developing and using different mathematical languages based on pictures in two, three, and more dimensions
… Templeton Religion Trust
… Ultimately what higher-dimensional picture language does is to translate the structure of space into mathematics in a natural way /18-02-01
Steven Pinker's .. Enlightment Now
… clear explanation of progress
… reason, science, and humanism
… Our world today encourages abstract thought from a young age, and it’s making us smarter.
… a bit too optimistic about artificial intelligence .. Bill Gates /18-01-31
From the Mississippi Delta to Krakow’s old town
… to listen for the word Żyd—Jew—and to recognize when it was spoken in the same tone my father used when holding forth about Black people
… We made some of the best friends of our lives there, and I eventually found my own special spot, an outdoor café named Bunkier that figures prominently in my novel and offers fabulous views of Planty, the broad, green band ringing the Old Town. The café operates year-round: in cold weather, they lower clear plastic drop-panels and turn on space heaters. I spent countless hours there, sipping beer, reading and watching people stroll by.
… Somehow, I had come to belong to this country and this city, owning and being owned by them, as I had once owned and been owned by Mississippi. /18-01-31
The Europeanization of Holocaust remembrance
… a new Polish law that would criminalize any suggestion that Poland was responsible for Nazi atrocities.
… Few facts of European history appear to be as widely known today as the following: the genocide against European Jews was initiated and implemented by Nazi Germany during the Second World War, and primary responsibility for the murder of its six million victims lies with the German state and society of the time.
… Europeanization has to confront serious obstacles. Comparisons between Nazi and Stalinist rule – i.e. comparisons that pay due attention to similarities as well as differences – have remained something of a taboo in Russia and have not been encouraged much, albeit for different reasons, in Germany either. /18-01-31
Milosz, A Biography, Edited and translated by Aleksandra Parker, Michael Parker
Harvard University Press /18-01-23
evolution is more complex than we once assumed
… extended evolutionary synthesis (EES)
… whether what happens to organisms during their lifetime – their development – can play important and previously unanticipated roles in evolution.
… The way that genes are expressed to produce an organism’s phenotype – the actual characteristics it ends up with – is affected by chemicals that attach to them.
… Usually these so-called ‘epigenetic’ attachments are removed during the production of sperm and eggs cells, but it turns out that some escape the resetting process and are passed on to the next generation
… truly Lamarckian
… epigenetic inheritance pushes us to think about evolution in a different way
… social learning in mammals, birds, fish and insects
… Creationists and advocates of ‘intelligent design’ also feed this impression, with propaganda that exaggerates differences of opinion among evolutionists
… does all this mean a radically different and profoundly richer account of evolution is emerging? No one knows /18-01-23
… Sean Carroll .. attacking the naive Popperazi
… Ellis here is making the central argument that Carroll refuses to acknowledge: the problem with the multiverse is that it’s an empty idea, predicting nothing.
… Carroll .. The best reason for classifying the multiverse as a straightforwardly scientific theory is that we don’t have any choice. This is the case for any hypothesis that satisfies two criteria:
It might be true.
Whether or not it is true affects how we understand what we observe.
… various hypotheses about supreme beings and how they operate would by this criterion qualify as science.
… “M-theory” is a word but not an actual theory /18-01-23
Novelty in science
… reproducibility crisis
… Balancing fresh findings and robustness
… measure of scientific novelty .. more novel if it cited a diverse combination of journals. For example, a scientific article citing a botany journal, an economics journal and a physics journal would be considered very novel if no other article had cited this combination of varied references before. /18-01-10
Consciousness as a State of Matter
… “perceptronium”, with distinctive information processing abilities
… quantum factorization problem: why do conscious observers like us perceive the particular Hilbert space factorization corresponding to classical space (rather than Fourier space, say)
… Our approach generalizes Giulio Tononi’s integrated information framework for neural-network-based consciousness to arbitrary quantum systems, and we find interesting links to error-correcting codes, condensed matter criticality, and the Quantum Darwinism program, as well as an interesting connection between the emergence of consciousness and the emergence of time.
… it is striking that many of the most hotly debated issues in physics today involve the notions of observations and observers .. these issues have resisted resolution for so long is .. what constitutes an observer
… Is our persistent failure to unify general relativity with quantum mechanics linked to the different roles of observers in the two theories? .. observer in general relativity has no mass, no spatial extent and no effect on what is observed, whereas the quantum observer notoriously does appear to affect the quantum state of the observed system
… One might hope that a detailed observer definition will prove unnecessary because some simple properties such as the ability to record information might suffice
… Another commonly held view is that consciousness is unrelated to quantum mechanics because the brain is a wet, warm system where decoherence destroys quantum superpositions of neuron firing much faster than we can think, preventing our brain from acting as a quantum computer .. consciousness and quantum mechanics are nonetheless related, but in a different way: it is not so much that quantum mechanics is relevant to the brain, as the other way around. Specifically, consciousness is relevant to solving an open problem at the very heart of quantum mechanics: the quantum factorization problem.
… David Chalmers has termed “the hard problem” of consciousness
… non-physical element such as an “anima” or “soul”. Support for dualism among scientists has gradually dwindled with the realization that we are made of quarks and electrons
… Occam’s razor
… an arrangement of particles can feel conscious, we will start with the hard fact that some arrangement of particles (such as your brain) do feel conscious while others (such as your pillow) do not, and ask what properties of the particle arrangement make the difference.
… Giulio Tononi .. for an information processing system to be conscious, it needs to have two separate traits:
1. Information: It has to have a large repertoire of accessible states, i.e., the ability to store a large amount of information.
2. Integration: This information must be integrated into a unified whole, i.e., it must be impossible to decompose the system into nearly independent parts, because otherwise these parts would subjectively feel like two separate conscious entities. .. Integrated Information Theory (IIT)
… neural correlates of consciousness .. physical correlates of consciousness
… the future of artificial intelligence to determining when an animal, fetus or unresponsive patient can feel pain
… Principle - Definition:
Information principle - A conscious system has substantial information storage capacity.
Dynamics principle - A conscious system has substantial information processing capacity.
Independence principle - A conscious system has substantial independence from the rest of the world.
Integration principle - A conscious system cannot consist of nearly independent parts.
Autonomy principle - A conscious system has substantial dynamics and independence.
Utility principle - An evolved conscious system records mainly information that is useful for it.
… the information principle: by applying the Schrodinger equation to systems that could record and store information, he (Hugh Everet) inferred that they would perceive subjective randomness in accordance with the Born rule. /18-01-02
Mind from matter
… View #1: "It's a mystery – that's all I can say." /Witten
… View #2: "There's no mystery – there's no mind, only matter."
… mental realm by simply denying it, or denying the validity of the question
… Eliminative Materialism
… You don't ask .. "What is the essence of the quark?"
… View #3: "Consciousness is a mysterious property that emerges in certain physical systems."
… epiphenomenon, a phenomenon outside of the causal order /18-01-02
The christian destruction of the classical world
… the vandalism that took place between the mid AD 380s and AD 532 as Christianity grew to become the dominant religion
… Christians were told that they would reap the benefits in heaven if they became martyrs to the cause of destroying the existing beliefs.
… the largest destruction of art that human history has ever seen
… the current political climate in the west has been created by politicians who are leading and/or competing to fall in line with populist movements which thrive on fear of the ‘other'
… lead to another ‘darkening age' /Catherine Nixey/17-12-25
Life Could Have Begun In Space
… organic molecules could originate from space radiation interacting with icy surfaces
… low-energy electrons (LEEs)
… Propylene, ethane and acetylene developed in films of frozen methane, while ethanol developed in irradiated frozen methane and oxygen.
… building blocks of life could have come from space /17-12-20
Is There a Limit to Scientific Understanding?
… Human brains evolved to be adaptable .. our ancestors roamed the savannah
… certain areas (such as atomic physics) to the point that there’s no more to say.
… we’ll reach the limits of what our brains can grasp.
… we aren’t aware of, any more than a monkey comprehends Darwinism or meteorology.
… Some insights might have to await a post-human intelligence.
… Today, we can convincingly interpret measurements that reveal two black holes crashing together more than a billion light-years from Earth.
… Atoms and astronomical phenomena—the very small and the very large—can be quite basic. It’s everything in between that gets tricky. Most complex of all are living things.
… Mathematics is in the basement, followed by particle physics, then the rest of physics, then chemistry, then biology, then botany and zoology, and finally the behavioral and social sciences (with the economists
… Scientists are nearly all reductionists .. everything, however complex, is a solution to Schrödinger’s equation
… More is different .. hurricanes, human societies—is made of atoms
… “emergent” properties
… reductionism is true in a sense. But it’s seldom true in a useful sense
… the very small, the very large, and the very complex
… Efforts to understand very complex systems, such as our own brains, might well be the first to hit such limits.
… Physicists might never understand the bedrock nature of space and time because the mathematics is just too hard.
… David Deutsch .. The Beginning of Infinity (2011)
… Whether the machines will eventually surpass us to a qualitative degree—and even themselves become conscious—is a live controversy.
… Abstract thinking by biological brains has underpinned the emergence of all culture and science. But this activity, spanning tens of millennia at most, will probably be a brief precursor to the more powerful intellects of the post-human era—evolved not by Darwinian selection but via “intelligent design.” /17-12-19
central nervous system evolved independently several times
… Xenoturbella bocki, a firm favourite in the scientific community
… Similar gene expression underscored the concept that the cords could be traced back to a common ancestor. But
… the truth is more nuanced. “There are probably some components [of the central nerve cord] that are maintained from ancient evolutionary times," he says, "and some that are layered on top of that.” /17-12-19
… dualities in physics and math, emergent space-time, and the pursuit of a complete description of nature
… M-theory, the leading candidate for a unified physical “theory of everything”
… M-theory incorporates within a single mathematical structure all five versions of string theory
… “it from qubit”
… space-time and everything in it emerges like a hologram out of information stored in the entangled quantum states of particles
… You can’t imagine it at all? No, I can’t.
… How would you describe what’s real or fundamental? What aspect of what’s real are you interested in? What does it mean that we exist? Or how do we fit into our mathematical descriptions?
… Do you have any ideas about the meaning of existence? No. [Laughs.] /17-12-18
Sean Carroll: From the Big Bang to the meaning of life/17-12-14
CO2 could soon reach levels that, it’s widely agreed, will lead to catastrophe.
… Carbon-dioxide removal is, potentially, a trillion-dollar enterprise because it offers a way not just to slow the rise in CO2 but to reverse it.
… the power generated by a Nigeria-size solar farm would be enough to remove all the CO2 emitted
… Carbon dioxide should be regarded the same way we view other waste products, like sewage or garbage. We don’t expect people to stop producing waste.
… Petra Nova plant, near Houston, uses post-combustion carbon capture on a large scale
… carbon dioxide removal .. It may be impossible to manage and it may also be impossible to manage without. /17-11-15
Can a Robot Join the Faith?
… The recent awarding of Saudi citizenship to an android named Sophia raises a strange and unexpectedly pressing theological question.
… Neom .. international trade center, built from scratch, .. five hundred billion dollars, on the shores of the Red Sea .. the future of human civilization .. inhabited by armies of artificially intelligent bots
… Sophia is a chatty A.I. android born of the Hanson Robotics lab, in Hong Kong. In conversation, she will look you in eye in order to memorize your face
… sixty-two facial expresssions
… she learns constantly
… she even managed to output some witticisms about not destroying humankind.
… modelled after Audrey Hepburn
… Sophia Robot might, in theory, be considered Muslim, or Christian, or Jewish, or Buddhist, or Jain? .. could a robot serve as .. Pope?
… one day in the not-so-distant future, the Internet will suddenly coalesce into a super-intelligent A.I., infinitely smarter than any of us individually and all of us combined; it will become alive in the blink of an eye, and take over the world before humans even realize what’s happening. .. around 2040
… when the Singularity comes to pass, and the bots write their own bibles, the more pressing question may not be whether bots can join our religions but what place we will have in theirs. /17-11-15
… designed to test our moral intuitions and introduce the differences between Kantian and consequentialist reasoning
… Most people announce that they would pull the switch
… The persistence of the trolley problem in philosophy and psychology tells us a lot more about the state of those fields than it does about ourselves and our moral choices.
… The Good Place
… every single answer is horrific, and wild examples like this take us so far afield from ordinary moral choices that they’re close to nonsensical
… “If you had to kill one of your parents, which one would it be?”
… what the trolley problem largely shows is that it’s very easy to temporarily become a psychopath if your professor says doing so will be intellectually useful
… to program collision avoidance algorithms for driverless cars
… trolley problem is not just a pointless exercise. It could also be a damaging one, because of the way in which it gets students to start thinking about moral questions. /17-11-08
human biases in science
… it seems surprising that science functions at all
… Brian Nosek .. “motivated reasoning”
… Karl Popper .. falsify her theories—to ask “How am I wrong?” .. instead “How am I right?”
… Researchers, like people generally, are bad at thinking about probabilities
… Given that science has uncovered a dizzying variety of cognitive biases, the relative neglect of their consequences within science itself is peculiar
… much more likely to publish positive than negative results
… I could be patient, or get lucky—or I could take the easiest way, making often unconscious decisions about which data I select and how I analyze them, so that a clean story emerges.
… Although scientists guard the status quo, they also have the power to change it. /17-11-08
Should we be afraid of AI?
Machines seem to be getting smarter and smarter and much better at human jobs, yet true AI is utterly implausible.
… Good’s ‘intelligence explosion’
… Stephen Hawking in 2014: The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.
… Bill Gates .. Elon Musk .. We should be very careful about artificial intelligence.
… Tay – an AI-based chat robot .. it quickly became an evil Hitler-loving, Holocaust-denying .. absorbing and being shaped by the nasty messages sent to it. Microsoft apologised.
… disbelievers as members of the Church of AItheists
… good philosophy is almost always in the boring middle
… Singularitarians .. close-enough-to-worry-about but far-enough-not-to-be-around-to-be-proved-wrong
… a digital opiate for the masses
… What we are going to see are increasingly smart machines able to perform more tasks that we currently perform ourselves.
… AI is just computers, computers are just Turing Machines, Turing Machines are merely syntactic engines, and syntactic engines cannot think, cannot know, cannot be conscious. End of story
… True AI is not logically impossible, but it is utterly implausible.
… so-called undecidable problems .. it is impossible to construct an algorithm that always leads to a correct yes-or-no answer.
… Quantum computers are constrained by the same limits
… We are not at the centre of the Universe (Copernicus), of the biological kingdom (Charles Darwin), or of rationality (Sigmund Freud). And after Turing, we are no longer at the centre of the infosphere, the world of information processing and smart agency, either.
… We thought we were free because we could buy whatever we wished. Now our spending patterns are predicted by devices as thick as a plank. /17-11-06
Randomness of Language Evolution
… English is shaped by more than natural selection
… Today, if you wanted to talk about something that’s clear, you’d say that it has clarity. But if you were around in 1890, you would almost certainly have talked about its clearness.
… the evolution of languages and of species. Darwin himself wrote about these “curious parallels”
… “The survival ... of certain favored words in the struggle for existence is natural selection,” Darwin wrote
… genes can also change in frequency for completely random reasons .. pure, dumb luck .. drift
… Random processes are simply underappreciated, because we want to come up with interesting explanations. /17-11-03
… Five hundred years .. 95 .. Wittenberg
… splitting the thousand-year-old Roman Catholic Church into two churches
… hammering episode, so satisfying symbolically—loud, metallic, violent—never occurred .. he sent it to the local archbishop
… The quintessentially modern idea of the individual was as unthinkable before Luther
… he was vehemently anti-Semitic
… Most painful, it seems, for this passionately religious young man was to discover his anger against God.
… forgiven x amount of time in Purgatory
… This made his texts easy and pleasing to read aloud, at home, to the children.
… woodcut illustrations, all by one artist from the Cranach workshop
… the only book in the house /17-10-30
AlphaGo mastered the game with no human input
… The computer program even devised new strategies previously unknown to human players
… AlphaGo Zero trained solely through self play, starting with completely random moves. After a few days’ practice, AlphaGo Zero trounced AlphaGo Lee 100 games to none, researchers report in the Oct. 19 Nature.
… computer programs with superhuman smarts could find new cures for diseases
… For each turn, AlphaGo Zero drew on its past experience to predict the most likely ways the rest of the game could play out, judge which player would win in each scenario and choose its move accordingly.
… AlphaGo Lee used this kind of forethought in matches against other players, but not during practice games.
… AlphaGo Zero’s ability to imagine and assess possible futures during training
… AlphaGo Zero not only discovered many of the Go strategies that humans have come up with over thousands of years, but also devised new game plans previously unknown to human players.
… AlphaGo Zero is still “an idiot savant” that can’t do anything except play Go
… they’ll have to be more general-purpose problem-solvers /17-10-30
smart appliances are revolutionizing commerce
… Internet of Things
… not to mention light bulbs, sex toys, toilets, pet feeders, and a children’s thermos
… Alexa .. Amazon has been learning when some customers wake up, go to work, listen to the news, play with their kids, and go to sleep.
… a fundamental shift in the relationship between customers and companies
… when an appliance is sending a constant stream of data back to its maker
… to push prices as low as possible in order to build your customer base /17-10-17
Wystąpienie Prezesa Polskiej Akademii Umiejętności
podczas Narodowego Kongresu Nauki
… głęboka przepaść pomiędzy światem humanistów a światem przyrodników i techników
… nauka gwałtownie traci zaufanie społeczne
… Polaków, nie mając elementarnej wiedzy o regułach organizacji państwa, a także o podstawowych procesach społecznych, bez trudności daje się manipulować politykom. Z drugiej strony, nie umiejąc odróżnić nauki od magii
… METODA NAUKOWA
… znaczenie problemu „dwóch kultur”
/Andrzej Białas, PAUza Akademicka Nr 397 /17-10-13
Big Melt, Not a Big Bang
… The cosmological constant and the creation of the universe
… magnitude of initial perturbations
… totally lack predictive power
… theorists still not merged gravity and quantum theory
… cosmogenesis—the creation of the universe
… the information content of cosmic spacetime
… hypothetical pre-geometric phase of the universe, in which notions of space and time have not yet-emerged from some as-yet unknown structure
… information should play a key role in the description of physics
… Spacetime should be thought of as made of microscopic degrees of freedom, just as matter is made of atoms.
… CosmIn, being a physical observable number, must be finite.
… CosmIn is indeed 4π
… The conventional approach must consider this result as a random numerical coincidence. We, on the other hand, believe it is telling us something deep and beautiful about our universe.
… to link the numerical value of the cosmological constant to the size of the fluctuations in the early universe
… The notion of a Big Bang is completely eliminated, and replaced by a transition from one phase to another at the boundary. And the need for an inflationary period in the universe’s early history is also eliminated.
… spacetime is made of more elementary degrees of freedom—just as matter is made of atoms /17-10-09
Aliens in our midst
… The ctenophore was already known for having a relatively advanced nervous system; .. its nerves were constructed from a different set of molecular building blocks – different from any other animal – using ‘a different chemical language’ .. these animals are ‘aliens of the sea’.
… This animal, the ctenophore, provides clues to how evolution might have gone if not for the advent of vertebrates, mammals and humans,
… how different from one another brains can be
… The tendency of complex nervous systems to evolve is probably universal
… All animals were sons and daughters of a single moment of evolutionary creation: the birth of the nerve cell.
… the first brain must have appeared quite early, before the ancestors of insects and vertebrates parted evolutionary ways. If this was true, then the 550 to 650 million years
… The ctenophore seemed to follow an entirely different evolutionary pathway
… the ctenophore lacked several classes of general body-patterning genes that were thought to be universal to all animals
… proteins and molecules was blindly chosen, through random gene duplication and mutation, to take part in building a nervous system
… scientists speculate what kind of life might exist on other worlds
… life might have arisen two or more times on our planet
… Ctenophores are a long-lost cousin that we didn’t even know we had. /17-10-05
Those 3% of scientific papers that deny climate change?
… A review found them all flawed
… Theoretical and Applied Climatology
… The researchers tried to replicate the results of those 3% of papers—a common way to test scientific studies—and found biased, faulty results.
… very single one of those analyses had an error—in their assumptions, methodology, or analysis—that, when corrected, brought their results into line with the scientific consensus
… Many had cherry-picked the results that conveniently supported their conclusion, while ignoring other context or records.
… inappropriate “curve-fitting”
… even contradicting each other /17-10-05
Absurdity of the Nobel Prizes in Science
… They distort the nature of the scientific enterprise, rewrite its history, and overlook many of its most important contributors.
… three-page-long author list
… misleading impression of how a lot of science is actually done
… usually reserved for Oscar or Emmy nominees /17-10-05
… make it tougher to call findings statistically significant
… The statistic is used to test a ‘null hypothesis’, a default state positing that there is no relationship between the phenomena being measured. The smaller the P value, the less likely it is that the results are due to chance — presuming that the null hypothesis is true. Results have typically been deemed ‘statistically significant’ — and the null hypothesis dismissed — when P values are below 0.05.
… this threshold should be reduced to 0.005
… researchers should select and justify P value thresholds for their experiments, before collecting any data
… there isn’t a single magic number /17-09-27
deep neural networks
… Experts wonder what it is about deep learning that enables generalization — and to what extent brains apprehend reality in the same way.
… a new theory explaining how deep learning works
… information bottleneck
… the most important part of learning is actually forgetting
… information theory wasn’t the right way to think about relevance, starting with misconceptions that go all the way to Shannon himself
… define ‘relevant’ in a precise sense
… compressing X as much as you can without losing the ability to predict Y
… deep learning proceeds in two phases: a short “fitting” phase, during which the network learns to label its training data, and a much longer “compression” phase, during which it becomes good at generalization, as measured by its performance at labeling new test data.
… The mystery of how brains sift signals from our senses and elevate them to the level of our conscious awareness
… fears that AI could someday pose an existential threat
… general insights about learning and intelligence /17-09-27
… a big abstract noun – truth – is at the heart of a cultural crisis
… Alfred Tarski’s famous example from the 1930s, “Snow is white” is true if and only if snow is white.
… True beliefs took humans to the moon, false ones led to a space shuttle exploding shortly after take-off.
… trust in religious texts and leaders, learned experts and the enduring folk wisdom called common sense
… Now, it seems, virtually nothing is universally taken as an authority.
… Picasso’s famous aphorism “Art is a lie that makes us realize truth”.
… believers have retorted that religion is concerned with a different kind of truth from that of science and so cannot be falsified by it .. Stephen J. Gould .. “Non-Overlapping Magisteria”
… Christ’s tomb was found empty .. It’s a rare Christian who says this doesn’t matter at all.
… Truth is not relative, but we relate to it in innumerable ways. /17-09-24
Tectonic Coincidence of Mexico’s
… whether the two temblors—on September 8th and 19th—were connected
… both exceptions to some general geophysical rules
… classic subduction-zone events. In fact, neither was
… megathrust events
… to distinguish causality from coincidence /17-09-24
Philosophy as the Las Vegas
… Philosophy is always going to be the default home of non-naturalists and anti-naturalists. Since no other discipline will take them seriously
… What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!
… it’s philosophy, and who takes that seriously?
… whether the universe was created exactly six minutes ago
… sort of quarantine barrier between philosophers' doscourses and the general run
… Philosophy at its best is informed play of the highest orderand a propre ingredient in any naturalistic vision of inquiry. /Daniel C. Dennett/17-09-23
From galaxies far far away!
… cosmic rays with individual energies of several Joules
… rate of arrival of cosmic rays is ~6% greater from one half of the sky than from the opposite one,
… outside the Milky Way
… only about 1 per sq km per year
… 5.2 standard deviations (a chance of about two in ten million) /17-09-23
… Fancy feathers or (in humans) symmetrical faces have been cast not as instruments of sexual selection, but as “honest signals” of some greater underlying fitness.
… Genes, rather than traits, became what natural selection selected.
… Richard Prum .. THE EVOLUTION OF BEAUTY
… this “aesthetic” courtship, says Prum, creates an environment, temperaments and rituals — a sort of culture — that give the female sexual choice, autonomy and safety.
… selecting for males who allow females autonomy and choice.
… catalog of Things Natural Selection Can’t Explain but Sexual Selection Easily Can includes homosexuality, a tendency toward monogamy, both sex’s taste and capacity for sex outside of female fertility periods
… When sex offers orgasm at relatively low pregnancy risk, it provides a way not just to reproduce but to assess potential mates’ attention to female desires, tastes and choices.
… This is why beauty should not be seen as merely the stamp of quality assurance that conventional evolutionary theory thinks it is. Beauty, rather, forms the foundation of an entire, complex evolutionary dynamic — one that can influence how we treat each other. /17-09-23
… Examining the science and supernaturalism of Buddhism
… it is helpful and therapeutic
… practicing Vipassana, or “insight” meditation
… Buddha is conceived as a wise man and self-help psychologist, not as a divine being
… This nimble-footed doubleness may indeed hold profound existential truths
… The sitter becomes less selfish and more selfless.
… Buddhist doctrine and practice anticipate and affirm the “modular” view of the mind favored by much contemporary cognitive science. Instead of there being a single, consistent Cartesian self that monitors the world and makes decisions, we live in a kind of nineties-era Liberia of the mind, populated by warring independent armies implanted by evolution, representing themselves as a unified nation but unable to reconcile their differences, and, as one after another wins a brief battle for the capital, providing only the temporary illusion of control and decision.
… the fixed self is an illusion imprinted by experience
… Meditation .. is not a metaphysical route toward a higher plane.
… Whether or not evolutionary psychology is a real or a pseudoscience—opinions vary
… Christianity try to tiptoe past the doctrines of Heaven and Hell, so that Hell becomes “the experience of being unable to love,” or Heaven a state of “being one with God”
… why a scientific explanation of that kind has seldom arisen in Buddhist cultures.
… meditation practice—the draining away of the stories we tell compulsively about each moment in favor of simply having the moment
… Can any old faith point a new way forward?
… A faith practice with an authoritarian structure sooner or later becomes a horror; a faith practice without an authoritarian structure sooner or later becomes a hobby. /17-09-13
W Traktacie o malarstwie Leonardo da Vinci udziela młodemu
adeptowi sztuki malarskiej takiej oto rady:
… nie zawadzi zatrzymać się czasem, by obserwować plamy na murach albo popiół ogniska, albo chmury czy błoto, albo inne podobne rzeczy. Jeśli będziesz w nie patrzył, znajdziesz tam czarujące pomysły, pobudzające umysł malarza do nowych pomysłów, tak do kompozycji bitew, zwierząt, ludzi, jak do rozmaitych układów krajobrazu i rzeczy potwornych, jak diabły i tym podobne. Przysporzy ci to sławy. Albowiem rzeczy pogmatwane pobudzają umysł do nowych inwencji. /Jakub Jernajczyk Portrety przypadku/17-09-13
… THE human face is a remarkable piece of work.
… is crucial to the formation of complex societies.
… the face’s ability to send emotional signals
… In America facial recognition is used by churches to track worshippers’ attendance
… Apple’s new iPhone is expected to use it to unlock the homescreen
… Facebook’s bank of facial images cannot be scraped by others, but the Silicon Valley giant could obtain pictures of visitors to a car showroom, say,
… China’s government keeps a record of its citizens’ faces
… to track criminals, but at enormous potential cost to citizens’ privacy.
… one gay man, and one straight man, the algorithm could attribute their sexuality correctly 81% of the time. Humans managed only 61%
… If your partner can spot every suppressed yawn, and your boss every grimace of irritation, marriages and working relationships will be more truthful, but less harmonious.
… Relationships might become more rational, but also more transactional.
… Change is coming. Face up to it. /17-09-11
Cassini’s 13 years of stunning Saturn science
… in pictures
… Twenty years ago .. Florida morning
… 3.5-billion-kilometre journey and 13 years spent circling Saturn
… Geysers on Enceladus spray water vapour and ice mixed with organic molecules into space.
… Sunlight glints off lakes of liquid hydrocarbons on Titan.
… Saturn's 60-plus moons
… Just 100 metres or so thick, Saturn’s rings are shaped by many moons and moonlets embedded within.
… The moon Pan clears a pathway within the rings known as the Encke Gap.
… Thunderclouds barrelled across Saturn’s northern hemisphere in 2010–11.
… the mission will come to a close soon /Nature/17-09-02
717 million years ago, the Earth turned into a snowball
… Volcanoes released enough carbon dioxide
… The algae, in turn, revolutionized the food webs in the sea
… oxygen in the planet’s atmosphere
… steranes, which are found in algal cells, and hopanes, which are found in bacterial cells
… When phosphate levels are low, bacteria do better than algae
… When the planet warmed, increased rainfall hit the newly exposed ground and washed even more phosphate seaward.
… 635-million-year mark, at the dawn of the Ediacaran period, centimeter-sized organisms showed up.
… the rise of algae led to the rise of animals /17-08-28
universal basic income
… Adopting a universal basic income for all people can help society think creatively with new ideas, develop new industries — and free-up people to work on important future projects. This practical social support program can grow as science & technology rapidly evolve, becoming part of world abundance. .. Ray Kurzweil
… Mark Zuckerberg .. a renewed sense of purpose .. Our generation will have to deal with tens of millions of jobs replaced by automation like self-driving cars
… We’re all going to make mistakes, so we need a society that focuses less on locking us up or stigmatizing us.
… We are clearly headed toward a situation where everyone can live very well
… The fantastic price-performance gains we’ve seen in information technology is coming to physical products, food, energy /17-08-28
Odds for Lucky Mutations
… SOS response, a DNA repair mechanism that bacteria employ when their genomes are damaged, during which dozens of genes become active and the rate of mutation goes up. Those extra mutations are more often detrimental than beneficial, but they enable adaptations
… Is the upsurge in mutations merely a secondary consequence of a repair process inherently prone to error? Or, .. is the increase in the mutation rate itself an evolved adaptation
… harsh environments cause nonrandom mutations
… It has also been to find a plausible mechanism consistent with the rest of molecular biology that could make lucky mutations more likely.
… more mutation specifically in regions of the yeast genome where it could be most adaptive
… are mutations always random?
… variation in the number of gene copies might be a response to stresses or hazards in the environment
… purposefully adaptive response
… The small number of cells that did the right thing were at such an advantage that they were able to outcompete everything else
… They may also seem reminiscent of the outmoded, pre-Darwinian ideas of .. Lamarck
… mechanism that has arisen entirely through Darwinian selection of random mutations
… The Adaptive Mutation Debate
… they can adapt by elevating their mutation rate to promote genetic change.
… evolution can get speeded up
… chemotherapy-resistant cancers /17-08-28
Hackers Are the Real Obstacle for Self-Driving Vehicles
… adversarial machine learning
… Super-Smart Cyberattacks
… today Windows is one of the most secure operating systems
… autonomous vehicles rely on complex machine-learning algorithms that are not well understood
… face recognition algorithms could be defeated by wearing a pair of clear glasses with a funky pattern printed on their frames
… It will take only a few accidents to stop the deployment of driverless vehicles. /17-08-24
death of the internal combustion engine
… HUMAN inventiveness…has still not found a mechanical process to replace horses .. in December 1893
… The big end
… Rapid gains in battery technology
… “total cost of ownership” of an electric car will reach parity with a petrol one next year—albeit at a loss to its manufacturer.
… Britain joined a lengthening list of electric-only countries, saying that all new cars must be zero-emission by 2050
… electric cars are much simpler
… Assuming, of course, that people want to own cars at all.
… self-driving technology .. could shrink the industry by as much as 90%
… Saudi Arabia, with vast reserves that can be tapped cheaply, will be under pressure to get pumping before it is too late
… lithium-rich Chile the new Saudi Arabia? Not exactly, because electric cars do not consume it
… still dominate shipping and aviation
… Driverless electric cars in the 21st century are likely to improve the world in profound and unexpected ways, just as vehicles powered by internal combustion engines did in the 20th. /17-08-10
From Bacteria to Bach and Back
… For Dennett this apparent irreducibility – philosophers call it “the hard problem” – is a false distinction.
… Consciousness is a system property, and is not reducible: he takes issue with those hard-line molecular biologists, notably DNA pioneer Francis Crick, who seek to locate consciousness in particular ensembles of neurons in specific brain regions. Such ensembles, Dennett argues, are mini-robots, competent in their functions, but only their interactions within the totality of the brain enable comprehension, and with it the “user illusion” that we all share, of being a person in charge of these processes.
… Here, his principal target is Chomsky, who has always insisted on the uniqueness and universality of human language. As Chomsky points out, language is unlike any other evolved human feature.
… the origins of language lie in the social nature of humans and come from the necessity of communicating
… Memes are, for Dennett, units of cultural transmission.
… Civilisation .. is a work in progress. It may die, returning the planet to the bacteria, or, .. The future is open. /17-08-08
brain interventions to treat disease change the essence of who we are
… minds are dependent on brain
… we’ve been largely powerless to affect the way that brains work, at least in a systematic way
… neuroscientists have now started to develop novel methods of intervening in brain function
… they may put pressure on some basic beliefs and concepts that have been fundamental to how we view the world
… growing array of psychopharmaceuticals
… direct or transcranial electrical stimulation of cortex, magnetic induction of electrical activity, and focal stimulation of deep brain structures
… Transgenic manipulations
… to correct some neurodevelopmental problems in utero
… over 100,000 cyborgs are already walking among us, in some sense powered by or controlled by the steady zapping of their brain circuits with electrical pulses
… Deep brain stimulation
… neuroscience answers push us toward philosophy questions
… exploration of the truth about our brains and our selves
… Is there some immutable kernel of a person that is the self, or an essence that resists change?
… what have previously seemed like the abstract puzzles of philosophers may soon be seen to hit closer to home /17-08-07
… 66.1 million years ago .. K/Pg (Cretaceous-Palaeogen)
… It was not until 2013 that we had sufficiently precise datings for the impact and the extinctions to be sure that they really coincided
… We can roughly locate the impact by the thickness of the boundary layer.
… Chicxulub crater
… tsunami produced by the impact
… landed at a speed of some 40,000 miles an hour into the shallow sea
… 10 billion Hiroshimas
… About nine miles across
… The initial impact would dig a hole 20 miles deep, and 120 miles across. Deep rock would rise as high as the Himalayas, and then collapse to form the observed impact ring, all within 10 minutes. The impact fireball would kill everything within a 600 mile radius. A shock wave would spread out through the solid earth, and a monstrous tsunami through the oceans. The atmosphere would have seen hurricane force winds, and rock condensing in the upper atmosphere would produce a rain of tiny glass spheres
… Edelman Fossil Park in New Jersey .. sudden indiscriminate killing
… the missing gypsum must have been destroyed by the heat of the impact, sending sulphur dioxide gas up into the atmosphere
… Extrapolating from Mt Pinatubo and other recent eruptions
… to reduce temperatures worldwide by more than 10C, while acid rain would also have contributed to the death of much marine life
… Where did those ten minutes come from? .. the asteroid would have missed the shallow gypsum-rich continental shelf
… Who survived? Small creatures able to feed on insects and seeds, not dependent on the products of day-by-day photosynthesis. /17-08-07
humankind has never had it so good
… Brexit .. Donald Trump
… the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty had fallen below 10% for the first time; global carbon emissions from fossil fuels had failed to rise for the third year running; the death penalty had been ruled illegal in more than half of all countries
… by many measures, “2016 was the best year in the history of humanity”
… the promise of artificial intelligence
… the New Optimists
… that it is best explained as the result of various psychological biases that served a purpose on the prehistoric savannah – but now, in a media-saturated era, constantly mislead us
… As recently as 1882, only 2% of homes in New York had running water; in 1900, worldwide life expectancy was a paltry 31
… The New Optimists invite us to forget our partisan biases and tribal loyalties
… Just look at the numbers!
… Steven Pinker
… it is scientific progress, he argues, that is destined to make us ever more ethical
… Trump .. at some point, the damage may not be repairable
… the things that drive progress are not political /17-08-06
Sean Carroll's attempt to construct morality out of quantum field theory
… The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself
… I don't think I have ever read anything with a bigger ambition
… “Our values,” writes Carroll, “have not yet caught up to our best ontology.” In this book, he conducts a quest to catch up.
… Quantum field theory provides a unified perspective on the subatomic realm. Carroll calls that the “Core Theory”
… the absurdity of adding to the Core Theory to explain the possibility of things such as an afterlife or a transcendent underlying purpose
… Like entropy, he argues, consciousness is a concept that “we invent to give ourselves more useful and efficient descriptions of the world”.
… “poetic naturalism”
… Carroll confidently defines many concepts, including belief and consciousness, as if 2,500 years of philosophy have yielded little relevant to the subject
… “ontologically fastidious”
… Morality exists only insofar as we make it so
… time, he means the quantity that scientists measure
… Carroll's is a naturalistic metaphysics. /17-08-06
Ravens have paranoid, abstract thoughts about other minds
… The ability to think abstractly about other minds is singled out by many as a uniquely human trait. Now,
… Theory of Mind
… The ability to hide food is extremely important to ravens, and they behave completely differently when they feel they are being watched
… Completing this evolutionary and developmental picture will bring us much closer to figuring out what's really unique about the human mind /17-07-21
… There might be some pre-geometry, that would give rise to geometry just like atoms give rise to the continuum of elastic bodies.
… The flow of time is an illusion
… there are intervals of time between different events; that’s what clocks measure.
… it’s a feeling we have, but it’s not a property of time itself.
… Time doesn’t flow. That’s part of psychology.
… even space-time itself is a product of the special early stage of the universe. We don’t know that.
… the ultimate origin of the arrow of time, which is the asymmetry of the world in time, is still a bit contentious.
… there’s still experiments can be done in particle physics that might disclose this time-reversal asymmetry which is there in the weak interaction, and how that fits in with the arrow of time. /17-07-21
the brain creates a representation in our heads of the world around us
… the idea that experience, and in particular color, is all generated in the brain—leads to some sloppy science
… The question of what’s “there” or what’s “now” is complex.
… Neuroscientists can’t disprove it, or prove that the experience is “generated” in the head.
… Rather than doing any real science, we are hearing fantasies about downloading consciousness into computers and the like. /17-07-21
Trump’s speech at Krasinski Square, in Warsaw,
boosted Poland’s ruling right-wing party but produced few other tangible results.
… Jarosław Kaczyński, the Party’s leader, touted Trump’s visit as a “new success” for Poland
… a method from the old Communist playbook
… free bus rides to Warsaw
… “Poles for Poland.”
… Copernicus, Chopin, and John Paul II
… Poland will be free now. /17-06-08
… the boom in bitcoin, a digital currency, is extraordinary
… If bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies are unlike anything else, what are they?
… how to maintain a public database (the “blockchain”) without anybody in particular, a bank, say, being in charge
… decentralised upstarts taking aim at today’s oligopolistic technology giants, such as Amazon and Facebook /17-06-30
Distance Between Language and Truth
… Radio is a spectral art, transmitted through the air; its pure aurality disembodies the teller and the tale.
… People, too, he says, can’t always been seen because “one day they die.” Reality, it seems, is full of holes.
… Not seeing becomes a kind of Cartesian believing.
… an artist whose vision is limited to what is right in front of him, literally outside his window. He suffers a crisis of faith, questioning the value of “looking more precisely” at certain objects /17-06-30
Do parents really matter?
… Thomas Bouchard
… separating identical twins at birth
… Their characters were often remarkably in step, as were their intellects, their behaviours, even their hobbies and eccentricities.
… parenting influences — are all secondary when it comes to personality, behaviour or intelligence
… Steven Pinker .. ‘A cosmic ray mutates a stretch of DNA, a neurotransmitter zigs instead of zags, the growth cone of an axon goes left instead of right, and one identical twin’s brain might gel into a slightly different configuration from the other’s.’ In other words, we should not presume that random chance plays a vanishingly small role in making us the people that we are today.
… We may not hold their tomorrows in our hands but we surely hold their todays
… Pinker, meanwhile, makes the point that it should be enough for us to remember that our children are human beings, worthy of the same ethical treatment we give to our friends, other relatives, and even to strangers. So protect your children, provide for them, be good to them, and make memories with them. Apart from that, don’t expect to have very much say in how they turn out. /17-06-18
Computers are starting to reason like humans
… A new type of neural network can reason about complex relationships
… Google’s DeepMind
… it has already beaten humans at a complex image comprehension test
… Statistical AI, or machine learning, is great at pattern recognition, but not at using logic.
… symbolic AI can reason about relationships using predetermined rules, but it’s not great at learning on the fly
… to bridge the gap
… forcing the network to discover the relationships that exist between the objects
… “There is an object in front of the blue thing; does it have the same shape as the tiny cyan thing that is to the right of the gray metal ball?”
… other machine-learning algorithms were right 42% to 77% of the time. Humans scored a respectable 92%. The new relation network combo was correct 96%
… “Sandra picked up the football” and “Sandra went to the office.” These were followed by questions like: “Where is the football?” (the office)
… “Lily is a Swan. Lily is white. Greg is a swan. What color is Greg?” (white)
… heir approach is .. conceptually quite simple
… That simplicity .. allows it to be combined with other networks
… toward models that come up with their own strategy /Science/17-06-16
… If we want to numerically tackle some quantum problem .. we first need to find an efficient representation
… It is a new way of solving intractable, interacting quantum many-body problems that uses machine learning tools to find exact solutions
… to prove some mathematical facts about the families of quantum states represented by neural networks
… to simulate a quantum computer with an ordinary computer /17-06-16
… The Invention of Sex
… He rescued Adam and Eve from obscurity, devised the doctrine of original sin—and the rest is sexual history
… something fundamentally damaged about the entire human species
… In the “Confessions,” written around 397, Augustine described what happened in the bathhouse many years earlier.
… intense and equally cryptic phrases evoke a succession of unhappy affairs with women
… his restless sexual energies
… Monica engineered another change in her son’s life
… Of his mistress’s feelings, he gives us no glimpse, noting simply, “She went back to Africa
… no bodily pleasure, no matter how great, could ever match the happiness of the saints
… Augustine and Monica experienced something remarkable: they felt themselves climbing higher and higher, through all the degrees of matter and through the heavenly spheres and, higher
… the thirty-two-year-old son and the fifty-five-year-old mother to reach this climax together
… Adam and Eve .. originale peccatum
… Holy virginity became pregnant, not by conjugal intercourse, but by faith—lust being utterly absent
… Some people can even move their ears, either one at a time or both together.
… Along with these doctrinal purposes, Augustine’s obsessive engagement with the story of Adam and Eve spoke to something in his life.
… Adam’s fatal choice /17-06-16
G20 must govern the shift to low-carbon energy
… Wind energy and other renewables will replace oil, gas and coal
… We must halve oil production and stop using coal to produce electricity.
… There will be winners and losers. /17-06-13
building block of life found in very young star system
… methyl isocyanate
… planet-forming cloud
… the level of complexity you can get to before planets form is pretty high /17-06-08
… Researchers at CalTech were able to predict the appearance of faces shown to macaque monkeys simply by monitoring signals in their brains. Credit
… The brain has an amazing capacity for recognizing faces.
… they have deciphered the code of how faces are recognized.
… electrical recordings from face cells .. neurons that respond .. when an image of a face is presented to the retina
… photos of some 2,000 human faces
… The monkey face recognition system seems to be very similar to that of humans.
… Just 200 face cells are required to identify a face
… These dimensions create a mental “face space”
… Though the networks are successful, they are also a black box because it is hard to reconstruct how they achieve their result.
… the brain is similarly a black box /17-06-06
the Heart of AI
… No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do. That could be a problem.
… it was unlike anything demonstrated by Google, Tesla, or General Motors, and it showed the rising power of artificial intelligence. The car didn’t follow a single instruction provided by an engineer or programmer. Instead, it relied entirely on an algorithm that had taught itself to drive by watching a human do it.
… The system is so complicated that even the engineers who designed it may struggle to isolate the reason for any single action.
… deep learning
… to diagnose deadly diseases, make million-dollar trading decisions, and do countless other things to transform whole industries.
… Starting in the summer of 2018, the European Union may require that companies be able to give users an explanation for decisions that automated systems reach.
… to serve ads or recommend songs. The computers that run those services have programmed themselves, and they have done it in ways we cannot understand.
… we humans can’t always truly explain our thought processes either
… Deep Patient, was trained using data from about 700,000 individuals, and when tested on new records, it proved incredibly good at predicting disease.
… the machine essentially programs itself.
… deep learning is a particularly dark black box.
… It might be part of the nature of intelligence that only part of it is exposed to rational explanation.
… certain images could fool such a network into perceiving things that aren’t there
… Even if somebody can give you a reasonable-sounding explanation [for his or her actions], it probably is incomplete, and the same could very well be true for AI
… a natural part of the evolution of intelligence itself is the creation of systems capable of performing tasks their creators do not know how to do. /17-06-05
… ?So there’s the two existential threats that we’ve created—which might in the case of nuclear war maybe wipe us out; in the case of environmental catastrophe, create a severe impact—and then some.
… ?A third thing happened. .. ?It’s called neoliberalism.
… Starting in the early ’70s there was a sharp change. First of all, financial institutions exploded in scale.
… unelected troika: the European Commission, which is unelected; the IMF, of course unelected; and the European Central Bank.
… ?it’s not just inequality, stagnation. It’s terminal disaster. /17-06-05
CZESLAW MILOSZ’S BATTLE FOR TRUTH
… both Nazi and Communist rule, Poland’s great exile poet arrived at a unique blend of skepticism and sincerity
… Andrzej Franaszek’s “Milosz: A Biography” (Harvard)
… As an aristocrat without money, and a Pole whose homeland was Lithuania
… repelled by the Poles’ religiosity and nationalism
… The creative act is associated with a feeling of freedom
… The belief in reason .. is unreasonable
… poetry must not darken the world but illuminate it
… moral authority /17-05-25
Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg’s port, resembles an avant-garde ocean liner
… Concert-hall design has entered its grand mannerist phase, or, some might argue, its age of decadence
… Philharmonie de Paris
… The first billion-dollar hall is not far of
… German .. more than eighteen million people attended classical concerts in the 2015-16 season .. considerably higher than the number of people who had gone to see soccer games
… “vineyard” plan: as at the Paris Philharmonie, the Berlin Philharmonie, and Disney Hall, in Los Angeles, the performers occupy the center
… Yasuhisa Toyota, who has engineered a string of triumphs, including Disney. His signature achievement has been to add resonant warmth to the clinical clarity
… though, something is off /17-05-23
… It has been neglected for too long
… first in Britain and Spain, and then around the world. It would reach 230,000 computers in 48 hours
… This is not a serious organised crime gang
… it reuses software stolen several months ago from America’s National Security Agency (NSA) /17-05-23
transhumanism .. the meat-free option
… liberate the mind from its sub-optimal hardware
… Google high-up Ray Kurzweil
… We will be able to live as long as we want
… By the end of this century, the nonbiological portion of our intelligence will be trillions of times more powerful
… The Next Human: Taking Evolution into Our Own Hands
… Ghost in the Cloud: Transhumanism’s simulation theology
… machines more intelligent than we are will usurp our role as captains of our destinies
… human ingenuity, .. can in fact overcome our inbuilt flaws
… a failure to appreciate the richness and fullness of lived life
… idea of gathering data on a person’s life – photographs, biographical detail, social media activity – with which to reconstruct their personality /17-05-18
I have nothing to say
and I am saying it
and that is poetry
as I need it. /17-05-17
“mystery” of Stradivari
… Listener evaluations of new and Old Italian violins
… under blind conditions, experienced violinists tend to prefer playing new violins over Old Italians
… they are unable to tell new from old
… from the perspective of listeners in a hall
… Results are unambiguous. The new violins projected better /17-05-09
Artificial intelligence will have implications for policymakers in education, welfare and geopolitics
… technological progress, and artificial intelligence in particular, will require big changes in the way education is delivered
… “nanodegrees” which can be completed in a few months
… Automation could have a much bigger impact in developing economies than in rich ones
… Finland and the Netherlands, are planning to experiment with limited forms of basic income next year /17-05-08
Consciousness Is Made of Atoms
… Sensations are the building blocks of consciousness.
… neural systems evolved to enable animals to move in their environments
… stimuli exist in analog form and are converted into digital form by the receptor cells and the neural circuits
… a small portion of an undifferentiated stream of stimuli is selected by the organism and given a specific identity.
… There is nothing “mental” or “physical” in this account of sensations. That distinction makes sense only much further down the line in the evolution of neural systems and requires the development of memory and neural plasticity /17-04-28
… does the quantum state ultimately represent some objective aspect of reality, or is it a way of characterizing something about us, namely, something about what some person knows about reality?
… do these results rule out the idea that the quantum state is a feature of our mind? Well, yes and no.
… fundamental assumptions. One is that the world is always in some ontic state, a determinate physical state independent of what we happen to know
… Saying a problem is “philosophical” makes it seem as if it falls outside the scope of mathematical and experimental physics.
… And that is unambiguous progress—both scientific and philosophical. /17-04-28
a better death
… Death is inevitable. A bad death is not
… Cancer patients who die in hospital typically experience more pain, stress and depression than similar patients who die in a hospice or at home.
… few, when asked about their hopes for their final days, say that their priority is to live as long as possible. Rather, they want to die free from pain
… doctors do “everything possible”, as they have been trained to
… legalisation of doctor-assisted dying, so that mentally fit, terminally ill patients can be helped to end their lives if that is their wish. /17-04-28
never .. to write a grant application again
… Self-organized fund allocation (SOFA)
… they all receive an equal share of the funding budget annually—some €30,000 in the Netherlands, and $100,000 in the United States—but they have to donate a fixed percentage to other scientists whose work they respect and find important
… wisdom of the crowd
… If scientists allocated 50% of their money to colleagues they cite in their papers, research funds would roughly be distributed the way funding agencies currently do .. but at much lower overhead costs
… Scheffer and Bollen /17-04-28
Octopuses .. Genes
… incredibly intelligent
… RNA editing that’s very rare
… fine-tune the information encoded by their genes
… RNA editing is still mysterious, and its purpose unclear.
… but their genomes are rigid and stagnant.
… By changing their RNA rather than their DNA, they might be more effective at adapting to challenges on the fly.
… the creatures could turn them on or off depending on the circumstance.
… encode experiences in this way. /17-04-26
Elon Musk ... Neuralink wants to redefine what future humans will be
… 600 million years ago, no one really did anything, ever .. no one had any nerves
… The jellyfish was the first animal to figure out that nerves were an obvious thing .. in order to increase the odds of life going well, rather than just floating aimlessly
… The flatworm ... a nervous system boss .. first central nervous system .. brain
… mammals .. were in touch with complex feelings like love, anger, and fear .. first limbic system
… tool-making, hunting strategy, and cooperation with other .. neocortex
… the first animal that could think complex thoughts .. symbol .. language
… 50,000 BC, humans were speaking
… Language allows the best epiphanies of the very smartest people, through the generations, to accumulate into a little collective tower of tribal knowledge
… Mass cooperation raised the quality of life for everyone, and by 10,000 BC, the first cities had formed.
… started writing things down about 5 – 6,000 years ago
… Gutenberg .. probably actually invented in China
… Machines were better than humans
… The first digital computers sprung up in the 1940s.
… The internet gave billions of humans instant, free, easily-searchable access to the entire human knowledge
… Computers have been a game-changer
… computers still can’t quite do. Thinking.
… brain-machine interface
… catch-22: “If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn’t.” /17-04-26
First evidence for higher state of consciousness found
… University of Sussex
… increase in neural signal diversity .. under the influence of psychedelic drugs
… how conscious level (how conscious one is) and conscious content (what one is conscious of) are related to each other /17-04-19
Is Matter Conscious?
… the central problem in neuroscience is mirrored in physics
… Our first-person experience, on the other hand, lies beyond the traditional methods of science.
… David Chalmers
… What is physical matter in and of itself
… our consciousness is rooted in the physics and chemistry of the brain
… How and why does a system that integrates information, broadcasts a message, or oscillates at 40 hertz feel pain or delight?
… there is reason to believe that there must be more to matter than what physics tells us
… particles .. how they are in themselves
… The hard problem of matter calls for non-structural properties, and consciousness is the one phenomenon we know that might meet this need.
… dual-aspect monism
… what it is like to be that system
… consciousness is the real concrete stuff of reality, the fundamental hardware /17-04-19
The United States launched a missile strike in Syria
… Vladimir Putin can’t be pleased
… Trump’s basic unpredictability
… If Putin’s dream is to sit down with Trump and draw lines on a map of the world, dividing up spheres of influence, how can he do that with such an unreliable counterpart?
… for the first time, Assad is paying a price
… proportional response /17-04-08
Daniel Dennett’s naturalistic account of consciousness
Four billion years ago, Earth was a lifeless place. Nothing struggled, thought, or wanted. Slowly, that changed. Seawater leached chemicals from rocks; near thermal vents, those chemicals jostled and combined. Some hit upon the trick of making copies of themselves that, in turn, made more copies. The replicating chains were caught in oily bubbles, which protected them and made replication easier; eventually, they began to venture out into the open sea. A new level of order had been achieved on Earth. Life had begun.
The tree of life grew, its branches stretching toward complexity. Organisms developed systems, subsystems, and sub-subsystems, layered in ever-deepening regression. They used these systems to anticipate their future and to change it. When they looked within, some found that they had selves—constellations of memories, ideas, and purposes that emerged from the systems inside. They experienced being alive and had thoughts about that experience. They developed language and used it to know themselves; they began to ask how they had been made.
… His newest book, “From Bacteria to Bach and Back,” tells us, “There is a winding path leading through a jungle of science and philosophy, from the initial bland assumption that we people are physical objects, obeying the laws of physics, to an understanding of our conscious minds.”
… “Consciousness Explained,” a 1991
… science can explain consciousness in purely material terms
… the zombie problem as a typically philosophical waste of time
… like evolution, essentially gradualist, without hard borders /17-03-23
Anna O. Szust .. fake editor
… dozens of academic titles offered 'Dr Fraud' — a sham, unqualified scientist — a place on their editorial board
… Thousands of academic journals do not aspire to quality. They exist primarily to extract fees
… parasitic publishers
… in 2015, we created a profile of a fictitious scientist named Anna O. Szust and applied on her behalf to the editorial boards of 360 journals
… accounts for Szust on Academia.edu, Google+ and Twitter, and made a faculty webpage at the Institute of Philosophy at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań
… One publisher suggested that the profits be split (“60% us 40% You”)
… predatory journals on Beall's list (about 10,000)
… We have not included journal titles in this article, in part because predatory publishers often choose names confusingly similar to reputable titles
… Piotr Sorokowski, Emanuel Kulczycki, Agnieszka Sorokowska, Katarzyna Pisanski /Nature/17-03-23
Atheism is as natural as religion
… the ancient world did not believe in Gods, contrary to popular belief
… religious universalism
… the paradoxical nature of religion – the fact that it asks you to accept things that aren’t intuitively there in your world
… when the generally tolerant societies were replaced by imperial forces that demanded the acceptance of one true God
UK was sixth from bottom, vastly less religious than Thailand (94% religious) and Armenia, Bangladesh, Georgia and Morocco (93%)
… The least religious country was found to be China, where only 6% of people say are they are religious with 61% being confirmed atheists. Other countries at the bottom of the list included Japan, Sweden, Czech Republic, Netherlands and Hong Kong. /17-03-15
… supersensitivity makes it great for measuring
… atomic clock could use this discrepancy to make an ultra-precise height measurement
… quantum gravimeters
… nanoscale diamonds with nitrogen vacancies
… ghost imaging
… magnetometers that can in principle watch your every neuron
… ufficiently long cipher, randomly generated this way and used only once, is absolutely secure
… quantum computers so attractive .. they will work fundamentally differently
… the entangling of multiple qubits is paramount
… a description of a 50-qubit computer would require a quadrillion bits of digital memory
… Shor’s famed algorithm .. a million qubits
… Feynman .. the computer will do exactly the same as nature
… David Deutsch .. quantum computer would serve as proof positive of universes beyond the known: the “many-worlds interpretation”
… constructor theory asserts that those laws actually arise from what is and is not possible
… software .. Windows for quantum
… Even deeper learning
… Quantum Algorithm Zoo /17-03-14
DNA could store all
… More data were created in the past 2 years than in all of preceding history.
… 215 million gigabytes in a single gram of DNA
… 72,000 DNA strands, each 200 bases long
… 1.6 bits of data per nucleotide
… writing and reading to DNA is relatively slow /17-03-03
… a giant neuron wrapped around the entire circumference of a mouse's brain
… across both hemispheres
… it could be coordinating signals from different areas to create conscious thought
… The claustrum is so densely connected /17-03-02
the limitations of reason
… Once formed, impressions are remarkably perseverant
… The Enigma of Reason
… Coöperation is difficult to establish and almost as difficult to sustain. For any individual, freeloading is always the best
… Reason is an adaptation to the hypersocial niche
… “myside bias”
… the environment changed too quickly for natural selection to catch up
… The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone
… “illusion of explanatory depth”
… no sharp boundary between one person’s ideas and knowledge and those of other member of the group
… ways of thinking that now seem self-destructive must at some point have been adaptive
… people experience genuine pleasure—a rush of dopamine—when processing information that supports their beliefs
… Providing people with accurate information doesn’t seem to help /17-03-01
taxing robots is not a good idea
… Bill Gates’s proposal
… scepticism about society’s ability to manage rapid automation
… negative externality
… Automation can be understood as the replacement of labour with capital /17-02-24
eighth continent: Zealandia
… New Zealand and New Caledonia, is a single, intact piece of continental crust and is geologically separate from Australia /17-02-22
how planets form
… Seven alien, Earth-sized worlds bask in the cool, red light of their parent star
… 39 light years from Earth
… You can imagine how many nearby stars might harbour lots and lots of planets
… orbit their star roughly every 4, 6, 9 and 12 days /17-02-22
Gene editing, clones and the science of making babies
… haemophilia and sickle-cell anaemia can be fixed before an embryo even starts to develop
… cloning humans steadily more feasible
… playing God
… whether “test-tube” babies would have souls
… Growing sperm and eggs from body cells
… gay couples could have children related to both parents
… protect the interests of the unborn
… opinions change as people get used to new techniques /17-02-20
Homo Deus Foresees a Godlike Future, Harari
… the free individual is just a fictional tale
… more people die today from eating too much than from eating too little
… humans are in fact trying to upgrade themselves into gods
… select embryos with the best odds
… to slow the aging process
… our radical transformation
… Relatively small changes in genes, hormones and neurons .. were enough to transform Homo erectus — who could produce nothing more impressive than flint knives — into Homo sapiens, who produce spaceships and computers
… proprietary algorithms to re-engineer brains, bodies and minds
… Once artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence
… #Resist /17-02-20
A computer to rival the brain
… In the brain, by contrast, data run simultaneously through billions of parallel processors
… without the need for a C.P.U.
… to emulate some of the brain’s messiness
… including a random-number generator with each neuron
… material that changes phase from amorphous to crystalline with a certain degree of randomness
… Matter will not execute a computation; it will be the computation.
… Our own human algorithms are not necessarily ideal. /17-02-17
… is still defining the way we see the universe.
… Penrose is irrepressibly eclectic in his learning
… quantum mechanics might explain consciousness
… Fashion, Faith and Fantasy—but that a book so wide and deep in its erudition could be written at all
… surrealist artist Roland Penrose
… phenomenal visual sense of geometry
… he attacks is the attempt to unite relativity and quantum mechanics in string theory
… a universe with so many dimensions is hard to keep under control
… absurdly, was never rewarded with a Nobel Prize
… Penrose’s h-index is still nothing special today
… in the standoff between quantum mechanics and general relativity, Penrose thinks that the former will crack first
… microtubules .. the collapse of these superpositions could enable the brain to solve problems that are formally “non-computable” /17-02-16
From Bacteria to Bach and Back
… Daniel C Dennett
… There is no ‘hard problem’ and consciousness is no more mysterious than gravity
… Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins .. Alan Turing and Claude Shannon
… memes, that seductive Dawkinsian concept
… Granted the right chemical and physical conditions, life forms will emerge from the primeval slime, and granted the right conditions, life will evolve large-brained organisms such as humans – who are profoundly social animals
… to think, remember, plan, empathise – in a word, to have a mind
… by Natural Selection
… qualia .. “the hard problem” – is a false distinction
… Chomsky concludes, improbably, that human language must have emerged in our hominid ancestors through one single giant mutational leap, making it possible to find the words to express private thoughts. It is far more probable, Dennett argues, that the origins of language lie in the social nature of humans
… It may die, returning the planet to the bacteria /17-02-15
Physicists are closing the door on ... “spooky action at a distance”
… particles have no definite states
… until they are measured, when they seem to suddenly roll the dice and jump
… both particles together
… John Bell
… locality, realism and freedom
… “freedom-of-choice” loophole
… random-number generators to set the devices’ angles of orientation
… nature might restrict freedom while maintaining local realism
… connections between information and the geometry of space-time
… the stronger the gravity in a volume of space-time, the fewer bits can be stored
… how to distinguish between a universe that lacks local realism and one that curbs freedom
… bright and conveniently located (but otherwise random) star
… used the color of an incoming photon from each star to set the angle
… to use light from increasingly distant quasars
… If the correlations are indeed set [at the Big Bang], everything is preordained /17-02-08
Quantum Foundations ... Steven Weinberg
… Decoherence is the process that destroys quantum-ness. It happens constantly and everywhere.
… how come on large scales our world is distinctly un-quantum?
… “collapse” of the wave-function
… depends on your favorite interpretation of quantum mechanics
… to use atomic clocks to look for evidence of fundamental decoherence
… whether quantum mechanics – in whatever interpretation – is fundamental, or whether there is an underlying theory /17-02-06
… to move the computer from the pocket to the body itself
… smart glasses
… even more intimate way to interact with machines
… it would turn reality itself into a gigantic computer screen
… instructions to employees while leaving their hands free
… architectural practices (where several designers can work together on a digital representation of a building)
… “Glassholes” became social pariahs
… Snapchat generation may not be troubled by the idea of being perpetually on camera /17-02-03
this apparent complexity is all a consequence of thermodynamics
… the difference between physics and biology
… biology’s only general guiding principle: evolution
… nonequilibrium physics, complex systems science
… Just how special (or not) is biology?
… at the heart of fundamental physics itself: information
… information that helps the organism stay out of equilibrium
… to extract work from fluctuations in its surroundings
… life can be considered as a computation that aims to optimize the storage and use of meaningful information
… thermodynamic efficiency of the total computation done by a cell is that it is only 10 or so times more than the Landauer limit
… evolution by natural selection is itself just a particular case of a more general imperative
… Darwinian logic breaks down” — so long as the system in question is complex, versatile and sensitive enough to respond to fluctuations in its environment
… A thermodynamically optimal machine must balance memory against prediction by minimizing its nostalgia — the useless information about the past
… “causal entropic force”
… the thermodynamics of nonequilibrium systems makes the emergence of organized, complex systems much more likely on a prebiotic Earth far from equilibrium
… meaning and intention — may emerge as a natural consequence of statistics /17-02-02
looking for deviations from Newton’s inverse-square law of gravity
… why gravity is so much weaker than the other
… gravitational interactions of objects less than 100 microns apart
… to a test of string theory /17-01-30
An Organized Collection of Irrational Nonsencse /17-01-30
Poker Is a Big Deal for Artificial Intelligence
… poker involves dealing with imperfect information, which makes the game very complex, and more like many real-world situations
… Libratus is up by almost $800,000 against its human opponents.
… It is fundamentally different from checkers, chess, or Go, because an opponent’s hand remains hidden
… There is no single optimal move, but instead an AI player has to randomize its actions so as to make opponents uncertain
… game theory, or the mathematics of strategic decision making
… involves some form of approximation
… how to randomize your play in a way that is, in a sense, optimal.
… a new equilibrium approximation technique
… end-game analysis is computationally very challenging, and is performed during each game at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center
… Charles University and Czech Technical University /17-01-30
methods of neuroscience are left wanting
… bottomless appetite for data
… published in PLOS Computational Biology
… neuroscience’s favourite analogy: comparing the brain to a computer
… who both have backgrounds in neuroscience and electronic engineering
… Caenorhabditis elegans, which has just 302 nerve cells
… understand much less about how the creature’s “brain” works than they do about computer chips with millions of times as many components.
… Obtaining data is one thing. Working out what they are saying is another. /17-01-23
Origin of Complex Life
… newly discovered microbes .. Asgard
… two billion years ago
… For the longest time, living things belonged to two great domains: the bacteria and the archaea
… Bacteria and archaea are capable of amazing feats of evolution, but in over 3.7 billion years of existence, none of them have ever evolved into anything approaching a eukaryote-like cell—except that one time. Why?
… a bacterium found its way inside an archaeon and, rather than being digested or destroyed, became a permanent part of its host. /17-01-19
Zygmunt Bauman (1925 - 2017) /17-01-17
Percepcja zmienia się w forum dyskusyjne, którego zwyciezcę nazywamy "sobą".
/Maria Anna Potocka, Nowa estetyka, Poznanie rozszerzone, str. 206/17-01-13
education fails to keep pace with technology, the result is inequality
… reformers in the Industrial Revolution, heralding state-funded universal schooling
… robotics and artificial intelligence call for another education revolution
… working lives are so lengthy and so fast-changing
… If 21st-century economies are not to create a massive underclass
… on-the-job training is shrinking
… Self-employment is spreading, leaving more people to take responsibility for their own skills.
… Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have veered away from lectures on Plato or black holes in favour of courses that make their students more employable.
… “microcredentials” and “nanodegrees” in, say, self-driving cars or the Android operating system
… to teach children how to study and think
… A focus on “metacognition” /17-01-13
Sotheby’s Solid $295 Million Contemporary Sale
… a correction to an overheated market
… Cy Twombly, Untitled (New York City), (1968)
… postwar and contemporary art
… $45-million Mark Rothko
… Covered with his trademark looping white scribbles on a slate-gray background, the work recalls his experience as a cryptologist at the Pentagon.
… Andy Warhol’s canvas Mao (1972)
… Jackson Pollock, Lucio Fontana, Francis Bacon, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
… really good prices for really good things /17-01-13
choice of a life partner is no accident
… to marry someone a lot like you. Similar intelligence, similar height, similar body weight.
… these preferences are shaping our genomes
… a strong statistical correlation between people’s genetic markers for height and the actual height of their partner.
… People had actively chosen partners with similar genes to themselves
… whether those choices, too, are rooted in DNA. /17-01-12
exotic looped trajectories of light in three-slit experiment
… even when only one of the three slits is illuminated /17-01-12
Deep-Learning Machine Listens to Bach, Then Writes Its Own Music in the Same Style
… Can you tell the difference between music composed by Bach and by a neural network?
… chorale cantata
… delicate interplay between harmony and melody
… about half the time, these compositions fool human experts into thinking they were actually written by Bach
… They begin with 352 chorales composed by Bach and then transpose these to other keys that lie within a predefined vocal range, to give a data set of 2,503 chorales. They use 80 percent of these to train their neural network to recognize Bach harmonies and the rest to validate it.
… to study the nature of creativity /17-01-11
… an identity crisis
… single-impact hypothesis
… Big Splash
… the product not of one impact but of at least a dozen—and it isn’t just one moon but an amalgam of the many moons that came before it
… Our current moon is also undoubtedly our last, or at least the last one that we’ll see. Its orbit is slowly expanding, sending it a couple of inches or so farther from Earth every year /17-01-11
Coming From a Galaxy Far, Far Away
… extremely powerful radio blast
… three billion light-years away
… he early universe
… what—or perhaps who—is producing them
… global network of powerful telescopes
… death shrieks of stars collapsing into black holes
… being broadcast by aliens
… We’re actively monitoring only a tiny, tiny fraction of the sky at any given time.
… FRB 121102, was repeatedly broadcasting signals.
… some mechanism that is capable of repetition
… FRB 121102 wasn’t erupting according to any predictable pattern
… Gemini optical telescope
… supermassive black hole
… The honest answer is that we don't know /17-01-09
Humans are probably not the greatest intelligences in the universe.
… But even on Earth
… The world Go, chess, and Jeopardy champions are now all AI.
… smarter than humans in every respect
… scientific reasoning and social skills
… two forms of superhuman intelligence—alien and artificial—may not be so distinct
… The transition from biological to synthetic intelligence may be a general pattern
… I prefer the term “postbiological” to “artificial”
… Our brains evolved for specific environments and are greatly constrained by chemistry and historical contingencies.
… much faster than traditional biological evolution
… we already see reasons why synthetic intelligence will outperform us
… Neurons reach a peak speed of about 200 hertz, compared to gigahertz
… machines have almost unlimited room for improvement
… Ray Kurzweil takes an optimistic view of the postbiological phase of evolution, suggesting that humanity will merge with machines, reaching a magnificent technotopia. But Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Elon Musk
… humans could lose control of superintelligent AI
… the “control problem”
… A clever machine could bypass safeguards
… many worry that the control problem is insurmountable
… Active SETI
… to claim that we can foresee the computational abilities and energy needs of a civilization millions or even billions of years ahead of our own
… superintelligent AIs, being self-improving, could quickly morph into an unrecognizable form
… perhaps it is in dark matter
… we should not rule out the possibility that the chemical differences also impact other key functions, such as whether silicon gives rise to consciousness
… whether an information-processing system supports consciousness
… Silicon-based brain chips are already under development as a treatment for various memory-related conditions, such as Alzheimer’s
… If, at some point, chips are used in areas of the brain responsible for conscious functions, such as attention and working memory, we could begin to understand whether silicon is a substrate for consciousness.
… that the only “chip” that works is one that is engineered from biological neurons
… consciousness engineering
… it may be more efficient for a self-improving superintelligence to eliminate consciousness
… Consciousness is correlated with novel learning tasks that require attention and focus. A superintelligence would possess expert-level knowledge in every domain, with rapid-fire computations ranging over vast databases that could include the entire Internet and ultimately encompass an entire galaxy.
… the most intelligent systems will not be conscious. On cosmological scales, consciousness may be a blip, a momentary flowering of experience before the universe reverts to mindlessness.
… benevolent species will see fit to create their own AI mindchildren /17-01-05
Mitochondria contain their own DNA
… mitochondria were once independent single-celled organisms until, more than a billion years ago
… today’s plants and animals
… just 37 genes
… producing certain mitochondrial proteins right where they’re needed helps the cell better regulate energy production
… mitochondria, with their history as stand-alone cells, are the only ones with their own command center /17-01-02
można wrażeń dotykać precz z ich rozumieniem /Lot nad miastem, Anna Maria Musz, str. 9 / 16-12-31
… “sculpting evolution” group at M.I.T.
… fundamentally altering the natural world
… the new gene will copy itself in every successive generation
… There has never been a more powerful biological tool
… complete transparency
… to eradicate malaria
… Natural selection is heinously immoral
… romantic notions of a natural world defined by innocence and harmony
… by editing a gene, transform a common virus into a biological weapon
… Ethical choices in medicine are rarely straightforward
… crispr, however, privileges design over evolution
… A release anywhere could be a release everywhere.
… if an edit cannot be corrected it should not be attempted
… molecular Noah’s Ark
… a daisy drive, separates the components of any gene drive into discrete parts—a genetic version of a multistage rocket
… We have engineered the world around us since the beginning of humanity. The real question is not whether we will continue to alter nature for our purposes but how we will do so. /16-12-29
… At many moments of 2016, it seemed the world was falling apart.
… Or the election of Donald Trump
… In August, he told me the world is still in a more peaceful period than at any other time in history.
… Look at history and data, not headlines.
… the worldwide, decades-long current toward racial tolerance is too strong to be undone by one man
… As it happens, most global, long-term trends have been positive. /16-12-25
images of black holes are illustrations
… what our telescopes actually capture
… because of their strong gravity, black holes tend to be surrounded by other bright matter that makes it hard to see the object itself
… indirect images of black holes
… Milky Way galaxy is evidence of a black hole there
… What they’re hoping to see is the actual shadow, the actual dark region /16-12-25
… ‘echoes’ of gravitational waves coming from blackhole mergers might be signs of a theory that finally unifies quantum mechanics and general relativity.
… the Planck scale: the smallest region of space, the shortest span of time
… ‘atoms’ of space
… For GR, space is smooth
… signs (in the data) of a quantum-gravity effect known simply as an echo
… statistical significance of 2.9 sigma /16-12-21
… before the invention of the printing press, .. notions of any sort of temporal dislocation were next to impossible; people saw the future as relatively similar to the past
… Industrial Revolution—when people could see just how different the world looked from how it had a decade earlier
… memory is anything but precise .. it plays tricks on us
… the fallibility of memory isn’t necessarily a quirk or negative side effect of neural wiring but a necessity for being able to imagine the future
… thinking about the past is absolutely necessary for imagining the future
… constructive episodic simulation hypothesis
… Time travel, then, is ultimately—and paradoxically—an exercise in remembering. /16-12-20
2016 was very, very bad
… terrorist attacks
… the election
… The world is in poor shape to deal with a Trump Presidency.
… The worst year, one said, was sixty-five and a half million years ago, when the Chicxulub asteroid hit.
… Spanish flu
… 72,000 B.C., when a Sumatran volcano erupted
… 1348, the year the Black Death reached Europe
… The Better Angels of Our Nature /16-12-16
What Martin Luther did to the Catholic church needs to be done to business gurus
… 500th anniversary
… including Roman Catholicism itself
… Just as the clergy in the Middle Ages spoke in Latin to give their words an air of authority, management theorists speak in mumbo-jumbo.
… The most striking business trend today is not competition but consolidation.
… The World is Flat
… The World’s Local Bank
… In 1880-1914 the world was in many ways just as globalised as it is today /16-12-16
2040, embryo selection could replace sex
… eliminate many genetic diseases, extend healthy lifespans
… ethical questions about diversity, equality and what it means to be human
… preimplantation genetic screening
… many genetic diseases will come to be seen as preventable parental lifestyle choices rather than bad luck
… to select the gender of their future children
… assisted reproduction technologies when conceiving children
… the world population does not bifurcate into genetic haves and have-nots?
… Our genetically altered future has already begun. /16-12-14
How long will it be before you lose your job to a robot?
… Deep Blue
… parsing and semantic analysis suite
… Google, Microsoft, and Amazon were competing with I.B.M. to dominate the era of intelligent machines
… What business will want to hire a messy, complex carbon-based life form when a software tweak can get the job done just as well?
… Jobless Future
… Employment migrated from farms and mills to factories and offices to cubicles and call centers.
… Picture the entire Industrial Revolution compressed into the life span of a beagle.
… process reengineering
… At present, machines are not very good at walking up stairs, picking up a paper clip from the floor, or reading the emotional cues of a frustrated customer
… U.S. textile plants return, with floors largely empty of people.
… collective form of semi-retirement
… guaranteed basic income
… brings us back to Trump
… How this will all end, no one can say with confidence, except, perhaps, for Watson. /16-12-15
Human Population Through Time - video /16-12-14
Edward Burtynsky, a Canadian photographer
… ocumenting colossal mines, quarries, dams, roadways, factories, and trash piles
… eight-pound digital Hasselblad
… effort to photograph industry has evolved into something of an industrial process itself.
… naturalism and modernism pushed up against each other
… Burtynsky has never found Cartier-Bresson’s dictum relevant to his method
… Camera-mounted drones allow Burtynsky to find precise aerial vantage points.
… neo-Expressionist paintings: darkly gorgeous portraits of devastation
… it takes two people to use Photoshop: one to work, the other to say when to stop
… Beyond making adjustments to color, he said, he would not tamper with an image. His work, in many ways, requires that the image’s authenticity go unquestioned. /16-12-14
The Core Theory
… Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek advocates viewing the standard model of particle physics as consisting of two “kingdoms,” one comprising the basic particles of matter and the other consisting of the particles that transmit nature’s fundamental forces.
… core includes gravity
… foresees the discovery of proton decay
… the laws of physics, rather than emphasizing energy, will someday be rewritten in terms of “information and its transformations”
… biological memory, cognitive processing, motivation, and emotion will be understood at the molecular level
… Calculation will increasingly replace experimentation in design of useful materials, catalysts, and drugs, leading to much greater efficiency and new opportunities for creativity.
… ultradense energy storage
… three-dimensional, fault-tolerant, self-repairing computers will be developed
… quantum artificial intelligence
… expanded identities /16-12-12
Stephen Hawking This is the most dangerous time for our planet
… we have the means to destroy our world but not to escape it
… rejection of the elites in both America and Britain
… cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned
… rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep
… economic inequality
… This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive.
… Instagram nirvana is not available there
… climate change
… we need to break down, not build up, barriers within and between nations.
… I am an enormous optimist for my species; but /The Guardian/16-12-03
energy storage technologies
… High-Performance One-Body Core/Shell Nanowire Supercapacitor Enabled by Conformal Growth of Capacitive 2D WS2 Layers
… capacitive materials for supercapacitor devices owing to their intrinsically layered structure and large surface areas
… an exceptional charge–discharge retention over 30,000 cycles owing to their structural robustness /16-11-24
Sean Carroll, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself
Our goal is to offer plausibility sketch that the world can ultimately be understood on the basis of naturalism. We don't know how life began, or how consciousness works, but we can argue that there's little or no reason to look beyond the natural world for the right explanations. We can always be wrong in that belief; but then again, we can always be wrong about any belief.
… science is precluded from making statements about supernatural forces because these are outside its provenance. Not really. Science should be interested in determining the truth, whatever that truth may be- natural, supernatural or otherwise.
Is it possible that God exists, and communicates with human beings in ways that circumvent our ordinary senses? Absolutely. As Plantinga correctly points out, if theism is true,
… two competing propositions: one is that God Exists,
… the other is naturalism, which would explain such experiences the same way it would explain dreams or hallucinations or other impressions
… To decide between them, we need to see which one coheres better with other things we believe about the world.
Given the profound and deeply personal nature of prayer, meditation, and contemplation, it can seem frivolous or diminishing to relate them to psychedelics or the activity of neurons, or even to dispassionate scientific investigation of any sort. But if we wont to undertake our journey to the best possible understanding of the world with the intellectual honesty it deserves, we always have to question our beliefs, consider alternatives, and compare them with the best evidence we can gather. It may be the case that transcendent experiences arise from a direct connection with a higher level of reality, but the only way to know is to weight that idea against what we learn from the world by looking at it.
… fragile quantum states may be able to exist for hours or even days in our warm, wet brain
… quantum consciousness
… quantum effects might indeed play some role in human cognition
… nuclear spins of phosphorus atoms
… the brain to function like a quantum computer
… Roger Penrose .. “microtubules”
… migratory birds have a “quantum compass”
… human sense of smell could be rooted in quantum mechanics
… quantum neuroscience
… Would a different isotope, like the much more rare lithium-6, produce the same results?
… lithium-6 can remain entangled longer
… entanglement must then have some chemically feasible means of influencing how neurons fire in some way.
… transporting quantum information stored in the qubits throughout the brain.
… Posner molecules
… The evidence is building up that we can explain everything interesting about the mind in terms of interactions of neurons /16-11-14
… A new generation of drugs
… Prozac .. chemical imbalance in the brain, which the drug corrects. Unfortunately, this idea seems to be only part of the story.
… Lots of drugs, for many indications, work well, even though no one knows precisely how.
… ketamine has opened up a new line of attack /16-11-14
With Trump, coal wins, planet loses
… climate change a “hoax”
… he made clear what his plans were in the areas of energy and the environment
… More than you might think
… fate of the planet will be decided by global economic forces more than by any particular treaty or set of regulations.
… The liberal-left just lost the ‘battle’ against climate change.
… And, in hundreds and hundreds of years, the impacts of the fossil fuels that we’re now burning will still be playing out. /16-11-11
Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism.
… we will bid farewell to the first African-American President—a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit
… People can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually.
… Fascism is not our future—it cannot be; we cannot allow it to be so—but this is surely the way fascism can begin.
… Why not leave the country? But despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do. /The New Yorker/16-11-09
It looks like scientists and philosophers might have made consciousness far more mysterious than it needs to be
… conscious experience is seen as deeply grounded in how brains and bodies work together
… David Chalmers’s ..‘hard problem’
… mapping their phenomenological properties (subjective first-person descriptions of what conscious experiences are like) onto underlying biological mechanisms (objective third-person descriptions)
… brain is almost as active during dreamless sleep as it is during conscious wakefulness
… consciousness seems to depend on how different parts of the brain speak to each other
… But during conscious states, a typical echo ranges widely over the cortical surface, disappearing and reappearing in complex patterns. Excitingly, we can now quantify the complexity of these echoes by working out how compressible they are
… Complexity measures of consciousness
… To measure is to know.
… what brains do, not just where they do it
… the differences between what the brain expects and what it receives
… perception is a controlled hallucination
… which aspects of predictive perception go along with consciousness?
… people consciously see what they expect, rather than what violates their expectations
… ‘alpha rhythm’ .. 10 Hz .. whose function so far has remained elusive
… experience of being you
… selfhood is also best understood as a complex construction generated by the brain
… introspection can be a poor guide
… Instead of ‘I think therefore I am’ we can say: ‘I predict (myself) therefore I am.’ The specific experience of being you (or me) is nothing more than the brain’s best guess of the causes of self-related sensory signals.
… We are conscious selves because we too are beast machines – self-sustaining flesh-bags that care about their own persistence. /16-11-07
Świadomość własnej egzystencji,
a zwłaszcza jej przemijalności, zmusiła ludzkość do permanentnego poszukiwania radosnych sensów i tym samym do tłumienia bezsensowności przypadku, na jaki jesteśmy skazani. Zmagania prawdziwego bezsensu z wymyślonym sensem to – obok walki o przeżycie – główne zajęcie człowieka. Wydaje się prawdopodobne, że jesteśmy ofiarą „błędu” ewolucyjnego, który polega na preferowaniu wrażliwości i świadomości
… w sposób przekraczający potrzeby przeżycia. /Maria Anna Potocka, Nowa estetyka, przypis 6 str. 57/16-11-07
The idea that humans are ephemeral
… compared to the workings of nature isn’t as persuasive as it once was.
… radically and permanently disrupted by human activity
… The development of agriculture 10,000 years ago, and the Industrial Revolution in the middle of the 19th century
… Great Acceleration—the sudden and dramatic jump in consumption that began around 1950
… huge rise in global population, an explosion in the use of plastics, and the collapse of agricultural diversity
… This dizzying Copernican shift threw both God and man into question.
… A single mine in Canada’s tar sands region moves 30 billion tons of sediment annually, double the quantity moved by all the worlds’ rivers combined.
… everyone born after 1963 has radioactive matter in their teeth
… 60 billion chickens are killed for human consumption each year
… Single-use plastic
… Humans created 5 billion gigabytes of digital information in 2003; in 2013 it took only 10 minutes to produce the same amount of data.
… we have decisively shifted the balance /16-11-05
Solidarity: A word in search of flesh
… Who will outsmart who, and who will be kicked out first? This is the job market, and probably society at large, reduced to the level of a TV reality show, writes Bauman. /Zygmunt Bauman/Eurozine/16-11-05
… animals as instinct-driven and incapable of thought
… the shared biology of human and animal consciousness
… Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
… from obviously intelligent species, like chimpanzees and elephants, into less-understood animals
… rats have also been found to possess empathy, a capacity sometimes said to define humanity
… Joseph LeDoux
… people shouldn’t hasten to understand them in terms of our own
… dolphins, elephants, orangutans, magpies and most recently manta rays, are able to recognize themselves in a mirror
… We still use ourselves as a measuring stick
… but fish?
… seemingly expressionless faces
… insects possess evolutionarily ancient brain structures
… If those deer mothers can respond to a human baby’s cry, might they be imagining how that baby feels?
… mental state attribution refers to the tendency of animals to project thoughts and feelings onto other animals
… It seems to have been an evolutionarily favored way of making sense of the living world.
… Turtles may turtle-pomorphize, frogs frog-pomorphize /16-10-26
algorithms .. aliens
… could humans ever understand minds that are radically unlike our own?
… human minds, in all their variety, are not the only sorts of minds
… chimpanzees, crows
… life-forms that have evolved elsewhere in the Universe
… artificial intelligence
… intelligence ‘measures an agent’s general ability to achieve goals in a wide range of environments
… conscious exotica
… the possibility of forms of consciousness so alien that we would not recognise them
… following Ludwig Wittgenstein, to reject the dualistic idea that there is an impenetrable realm of subjective experience that forms a distinct portion of reality
… nothing is hidden
… what it is like to be a bat
… This supports the dualist’s claim
… I am a human, not a bat
… to flirt once more with the dualistic thought that there is a hidden order of subjective facts
… whether it is like anything at all to be an X
… the extent to which a system is, in a specific information-theoretic sense, more than the sum of its parts
… David Chalmers, to a metaphysically weighty division between inner and outer – in short, to a form of dualism
… vegetative-state patients using an fMRI
… Ava .. Garland Test
… the study of a mechanism can only complement observation and interaction, not substitute for it
… Indeed, no machine, no robot or computer program yet exists that could plausibly be ascribed any capacity for consciousness at all.
… Roomba is a fully autonomous robot
… Mistake was on move 79, but #AlphaGo only came to that realisation on around move 87
… Its ability to respond effectively to subtle board patterns replicates what is often called intuition in top human players.
… human-level artificial general intelligence (AGI)
… whole brain emulation
… mind children .. Moravec
… AlphaGo is capable of taking both its programmers and its opponents by surprise
… philosophical impasse
… Solaris (1961) by Stanislaw Lem
… Some facet of reality might be empirically inaccessible to us, but nothing is hidden as a matter of metaphysics.
… our language and practices could change in unforeseeable ways to accommodate encounters with exotic forms of intelligence.
… Monolithic concepts such as consciousness might break apart
… We might well create autonomous, human-level artificial intelligence in the next few decades.
… the most profound philosophical projects we can undertake. It is also a neglected one. /16-10-21
Arrow Of Time
… traveling from the past to the present and into the future
… the equations that govern reality don’t have a preference for which way time flows
… the arrow of time and a quantity called entropy
… It’s the only law of physics that appears to have a preferred direction for time.
… So where does the arrow of time that correlates with our perception come from? We don’t know.
… Nobody, in fact, understands what will. /16-10-16
Universe has ten times more galaxies
… The observable Universe contains about 2 trillion galaxies
… (AW: 2*1012)
… galaxies out to distances of 4 billion parsecs (13 billion light years)
… theorists had expected the number to be even higher
… the current number of galaxies that actually exist now is expected to be much lower than 2 trillion /16-10-16
… Tubular microfossils from 2.8 to 2.7 Ga-old lacustrine deposits of South Africa: A sign for early origin of eukaryotes?
… Józef Kaźmierczak, Barbara Kremer, Wladyslaw Altermann, Ian Franchi
… Archean eukaryotic life
… exceptional preservation
… to modern siphonous (coenocytic) .. microalgae
… our knowledge of early life
… evolution of life /16-10-16
Pabjan, Tadeusz, Anatomia konfliktu,
Między nowym ateizmem a teologią nauki
… W perspektywie teologicznej wszystko zawdzięcza swoje istnienie Bogu i nie widać żadnej racji za tym, by Stwórca miał powoływać do istnienia jedynie byty materialne, które wykazują podatność na testy empiryczne.
… problem jest wieloaspektowy i interdyscyplinarny i w związku z tym
… Księga Natury, z której można poznawać Boga równie skutecznie jak z tekstów biblijnych
… Nawet dogmaty wiary, w swojej warstwie interpretacyjnej, podlegają ewolucji
… wszechświat nie jest chaosem /16-10-14
Andrzej Wajda, Towering Auteur of Polish Cinema, Dies at 90
… The New York Times
… But the biggest problems he faced were the practical ones of government disapproval, and sometimes outright censorship, before Poland rid itself of Communist control.
… He quoted Mr. Walesa himself, when he ran for president of Poland, to describe his own feelings about making the film. “I don’t want to,” he said, “but I have to.” /16-10-10
Philosophy Lost Its Way
… institutionalization of philosophy
… one of the enduring failures of contemporary philosophy
… Socratic wisdom, which highlights the role of the philosopher as the non-expert, the questioner
… development of the natural sciences, as a field of study clearly distinct from philosophy, circa 1870
… grand unity of knowledge
… increasing specialization
… Philosophers could serve as
1) synthesizers of academic knowledge production;
2) formalists who provided the logical undergirding for research across the academy;
3) translators who brought the insights of the academy to the world at large;
4) disciplinary specialists who focused on distinctively philosophical problems in ethics, epistemology, aesthetics and the like; or
5) as some combination of some or all of these.
… Philosophy adopted the scientific modus operandi of knowledge production, but failed to match the sciences in terms of making progress in describing the world.
… to match the cognitive success of the sciences
… We, too, produce research articles. We, too, are judged by the same coin of the realm: peer-reviewed products. We, too, develop sub-specializations far from the comprehension of the person on the street. In all of these ways we are so very “scientific.”
… essentially interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary in nature
… a Philosopher ought to be something greater and better than another man
… There was a brief window when philosophy could have replaced religion as the glue of society; but the moment passed. People stopped listening as philosophers focused on debates among themselves.
… Like the sciences, philosophy has largely become a technical enterprise, the only difference being that we manipulate words rather than genes or chemicals.
… to be smart, not good. It has been the heart of our undoing /16-10-10
Deep Learning Is Going to Teach Us
… Go has officially fallen to machine, just as Jeopardy did before it to Watson, and chess before that to Deep Blue.
… a clear signal
… we are entirely unprepared
… All work can be divided into four types: routine and nonroutine, cognitive and manual.
… Big Data
… unlike us, it can then sort through millions of images within a matter of seconds
… Amelia .. She can learn in seconds what takes us months, and she can do it in 20 languages. .. she can put 250 million people out of a job, worldwide
… These are questions we need to start asking, and fast.
… Decoupling Income From Work
… universal basic income
… a car that can drive for us
… jobs are for machines, and life is for people /16-10-10
… ideas may help us to understand the economic and political inequality
… The new modes of production, communication, and distribution had also created enormous wealth. But there was a problem. The wealth was not equally distributed.
… the middle class began sinking to the level of the working class
… Marx did, in later years, speculate about the possibility of a peaceful transition to communism
… After 1917, communism was no longer a utopian fantasy.
… Marx had less money to waste than historians have assumed, and he accepted poverty as the price of his politics.
… Marx was an Enlightenment thinker: he wanted a world that is rational and transparent
… We created God, and then pretended that God created us.
… Otherwise, like the members of the Islamic State today, we become the tools of our Tool.
… it’s hard to know what lies on the other side of historical change
… Thomas Piketty says about Marx
… The Depression and the two world wars had effectively wiped out the owners of wealth, but the thirty years after 1945 rebooted the economic order.
… Marx was correct that there is nothing naturally egalitarian about modern economies
… Sanders’s proposals to reduce inequality are straight out of Piketty: tax wealth and give more people access to knowledge.
… Money matters to people, but status matters more /16-10-10
Planet at its hottest in 115,000 years thanks to climate change
… during an interglacial era, when sea level was 6-9 meters higher than today
… the world has heated up at a rate of 0.18C per decade over the past 45 years
… There’s a misconception that we’ve begun to address the climate problem
… hundreds of trillions of dollars. It’s potentially putting young people in charge of a situation that is beyond their control
… fossil fuel companies should be forced to pay for emissions extraction in the same way the tobacco industry
… carbon dioxide levels will not drop below the symbolic 400 parts per million (ppm) mark in our lifetimes – the highest concentration of CO2 since the Pliocene era 3m years ago /16-10-07
… Not long ago, utopianism was a mark of naiveté or extremism; now pragmatists are denigrated for complacent cynicism.
… sordid realities of human nature
… “Innumerable millions of human beings were killed in this century in the name of utopia,” the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz
… dystopia .. too bad to be practicable
… Noww the tide may have shifted
… America’s nineteenth-century intentional communities
… “a deficit of imagination” in our era
… that things will only get worse if we don’t engage in some serious utopian thinking
… “Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Agra, Big Pharma” and the “corporate vandals” who “pollute the commons.”
… the rejection of capitalism and individualism
… a softer version of Communism
… 1850 Oneidan pamphlet titled “Slavery and Marriage: A Dialogue”
… society seemed like something to be invented, rather than merely endured
… they never reached a critical mass
… Wisława Szymborska
… Utopias are, in the philosopher Leszek Kołakowski’s phrase, “anti-human.”
… “Four Futures: Life After Capitalism”
… tyranny of high expectations
… meliorism /16-10-07
Wyspa na której wszystko się wyjaśnia.
Tu można stanąć na gruncie dowodów.
Nie ma dróg innych oprócz drogi dojścia.
Krzaki aż uginają się od odpowiedzi.
Rośnie tu drzewo Słusznego Domysłu
o rozwikłanych wiecznie gałęziach.
Olśniewająco proste drzewo Zrozumienia
przy źródle, co się zwie Ach Więc To Tak.
Im dalej w las, tym szerzej się otwiera
Jeśli jakieś zwątpienie, to wiatr je rozwiewa.
Echo bez wywołania głos zabiera
i wyjaśnia ochoczo tajemnice światów.
W prawo jaskinia, w której leży sens.
W lewo jezioro Głębokiego Przekonania.
Z dna odrywa się prawda i lekko na wierzch wypływa.
Góruje nad doliną Pewność Niewzruszona.
Ze szczytu jej roztacza się Istota Rzeczy.
Mimo powabów wyspa jest bezludna,
a widoczne po brzegach drobne ślady stóp
bez wyjątku zwrócone są w kierunku morza.
Jak gdyby tylko odchodzono stąd
i bezpowrotnie zanurzano się w topieli.
W życiu nie do pojęcia.
The dark universe
… Scientists have theories about dark matter and dark energy — and some observations — but both are poorly understood
1. Is there a dark-matter particle?
… Subatomic dark-matter particles, analogous to the particles that make up the visible Universe, would fit nicely into current physics models
… Weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) are the leading candidates
2. Does dark matter interact with anything?
… the only known effect is gravitational pull
… dark matter seems to interact with other dark matter
… for signs of dark matter interacting with ordinary matter
3. Does the cosmological constant explain dark energy?
… The simplest explanation for dark energy is that there is a small force that acts in opposition to gravity
… theory says that it is 10120 greater than that, a Universe-sized discrepancy
4. What will eventually happen to the Universe?
… big rip /16-10-04
key to life’s beginning
… material from the surface of an asteroid called Bennu.
… Slowly, nothing became everything.
… For a cell to survive, it requires three ingredients: nucleic acids, like DNA and RNA, to guide its development; amino acids to build proteins; and a lipid envelope to protect it from the elements.
… spacecraft to an asteroid, dig up a pristine sample, and bring it back home
… official approach to Bennu won’t begin until August of 2018 /16-10-03
… surprisingly simple relationship between the way galaxies move, and the distribution of ordinary matter within them
… if we know where the normal matter is, we know where the Dark Matter is too
… Dark Matter and normal matter don’t interact much
… about how galaxies form, or about the nature of Dark Matter, or about gravity, or something else
… That’s funny /16-10-03
natural selection of bad science
… replication crisis
… Sociology, economics, climate science and ecology
… studying very complex systems with a dearth of formal mathematical theory creates good conditions for low reproducibility
… low statistical power
… random noise in the data appears to be a real phenomenon of interest
… the pressure to publish is corrosive and anti-intellectual /16-09-27
Consciousness and Downward Causation
… qualia, the irreducibly subjective components of our experience of the world.
… zombies are harder to conceive of than you might originally have guessed
… respect for the laws of physics, but an insistence that consciousness can’t reduce to the physical
1. Consciousness cannot be accounted for by physical particles obeying mindless equations.
2. Human beings seem to be made up — even if not exclusively — of physical particles.
3. To the best of our knowledge, those particles obey mindless equations, without exception.
4. Therefore, consciousness does not exist.
… emergent, but that word means different things to different people
… an electron is determined by the local values of other quantum fields at the position of the electron — and by nothing else /Sean Carroll/16-09-13
Science Should Stay Clear of Metaphysics
… “realists” and “anti-realists.”
… “anti-realists” or “empiricists”
… van Fraassen
… He rescued empiricism from the dead end of logical positivism
… rain gods, musical spheres, phlogiston, ether, multiple universes, big bangs, cosmic inflation, dark matter, dark energy, and singularities. A scientist who believes in the existence of these unobserved entities
… “empirical adequacy”
… By way of example, there is evidence for what goes on inside a proton, but that does not allow us to assume the existence of quarks.
… It is a matter of fact whether or not electrons are real.
… The physical world is certainly real
… The role of science is to create theories that are useful in making predictions about the observable world.
… The sole criterion of scientific success is empirical success.
… The realist disagrees, “No! Empirical adequacy does not go far enough. The criterion of scientific success is that a theory has to be entirely true.”
… Can science explain religion and spirituality?
… category mistake /16-09-13
… fails to support Chomsky’s assertions
… learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module
… ability to classify the world into categories
… relations among things
… to grasp what others intend to communicate
… if you understand what language is, you comprehend a little bit more about human nature
… 2002 .. computational recursion
… a single genetic mutation that occurred between 100,000 and 50,000 years ago
… the notion of universal grammar is plain wrong
… usage-based linguistics
… The grammar must be something they discern beyond the words themselves, given that the sentences share little in common at the word level. /16-09-09
Art of the lie
… Politicians have always lied.
… Trump is the leading exponent of “post-truth” politics
… “feel true” but have no basis in fact
… And he is not alone. Members of Poland’s government assert that a previous president, who died in a plane crash, was assassinated by Russia. Turkish politicians claim
… Britain to leave
… If, like this newspaper, you believe that politics should be based on evidence, this is worrying.
… the heart of what is new: that truth is not falsified, or contested, but of secondary importance
… Feelings, not facts
… us-versus-them mindset
… lies, rumour and gossip spread with alarming speed
… NASA scientist says Mars is probably uninhabited; Professor Snooks says it is teeming with aliens. It’s really a matter of opinion.
… Pro-truthers stand and be counted
… The truth has powerful forces on its side.
… who makes contradictory promises to different audiences will soon be exposed on Facebook or YouTube
… especially those that draw on science
… The deeper worry is for countries like Russia and Turkey /16-09-09
Smarter brains are blood-thirsty brains
… size of two holes at the base of the skull
… Brain size has increased about 350% over human evolution, but we found that blood flow to the brain increased an amazing 600% /16-09-07
nanotube transistors outperform silicon
… wireless communications technologies that require a lot of current flowing across a relatively small area
… five times faster or use five times less energy /16-09-07
… physicists have been trying to build commercially viable nuclear fusion devices for more than 60 years now
… at least 100 million degrees Celsius
… Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL)
… more compact spherical tokamaks
… We'll have to wait /16-09-07
… to the fury of taxi drivers everywhere
… self-driving vehicles
… people forgo car ownership altogether
… It will transform daily life as profoundly as cars did in the 20th century
… reshaping cities
… reducing road deaths and pollution /16-09-06
Are we really so modern?
… Enlightenment philosophers
… Copernicus in 1543
… philosopher is a professor of philosophy
… discovery of America destroyed established geography, the Reformation destroyed the established Church, and astronomy destroyed the established cosmos.
… It’s impossible to imagine what, if anything, could produce a comparable effect on us today.
… our universe is actually a simulation run on a computer
… One of the most popular names for the unexplainable is God /16-08-31
What became of the Christian intellectuals?
… “nativism,” “reactionary,” even “fascism” appear in political conversation
… religious ressentiment
… decline of Christian (or “Judeo-Christian”) civilization
… They should be intellectuals who speak the language of other intellectuals, including the most purely secular, but they should also be fluent in the concepts and practices of faith.
… serious Christian intellectuals
… interpreters and watchmen
… What democracy needed was a metaphysical justification
… the Christian intellectual was the product of World War II
… The Christian intellectuals chose to disappear.
… very different authority: the scientist
… The term “Judeo-Christian” is almost coterminous with the Cold War
… anti-intellectualism in American life
… fear is not a Christian habit of mind
… a difference, not however between a closed environment and an open one but between environments that are differently closed
… dilemmas that Christian intellectuals began to face in the Sixties and still face today, and perhaps no solution at all
… you grow more and more public but less and less intellectual
… separate-but-equal domains
… rise of illiberal and confrontational movements that often seem to be rooted in religious identity
… Richard Rorty comment, “Of course the theists can talk, but we don’t have to listen” /16-08-30
Death and Doctors
… The mortality rate of human beings is still 100%
… the least attractive stage of human life, the years beyond ninety
… thank you, but no.
… still the act remains as fearful as ever
… absolute irreversibility of the procedure
… that is what the patient wanted. But did he?
… if you want to die in an acceptable manner, you have to actually try to escape from the hospital to a hospice /16-08-30
galaxy has been discovered
… made almost entirely of dark matter
… Dragonfly 44
… 300 million light years away
… scientists have no idea what dark matter is /16-08-29
Wastefulness of Modern Dining /16-08-29
… artificial intelligence .. try to imitate or augment human intelligence
… The first is recognition intelligence .. can recognize patterns
… The second stage is cognitive intelligence .. making inferences from data.
… The third stage will be reached only when we can create virtual human beings, who can think, act, and behave as humans do.
… It’s ironic that we define artificial intelligence with respect to its ability to replicate human intelligence
… man-machine symbiosis
… computers do the best they can (that is being consistent, objective, precise), and humans do our best (creative, imprecise but adaptive) /16-08-28
Planet orbiting Proxima Centauri
… the star closest to the Sun
… Earth-sized planet
… tiny laser-propelled interstellar probes
… Travelling at 20% of the speed of light, they would take about 20 years
… The planet orbits its red-dwarf star .. 11.2 days /16-08-25
brain's "physics engine"
… when people watch physical events unfold
… on the fly
… A better understanding of how the brain runs physics calculations might also enrich robot design. /16-08-24
hacking the machinery of life
… synthetic Escherichia coli genome
… factory for new industrial chemicals
… synthetic biology
… failsafe system /16-08-24
… Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World.
… Whenever a self-driving car makes a mistake, automatically all the other cars know about it, including future unborn cars.
… The ability of cars to develop artificial intelligence is so much greater than the ability of people to keep up with them.
… Could it be that the Internet starts to dream of itself?
… Elon Musk
… the perfect vacation: to infinity and beyond. /16-08-23
Werner Herzog said of virtual reality
… you get tired of it fairly quickly
… more convincing was animated films. Digitally created landscapes
… So you have the content first, and then the technology follows suit. In this case, we do have a technology, but we don’t have any clear idea how to fill it with content.
… I was not caught in a virtual reality is when I travelled on foot.
… Our understanding of our brain, of our mind, is in its infancy.
… whether we do live in a virtual reality all the time anyway /16-08-23
Must science be testable?
… The general theory of relativity is sound science; ‘theories’ of psychoanalysis, as well as Marxist accounts of the unfolding of historical events, are pseudoscience. This was the conclusion reached a number of decades ago by Karl Popper,
… string theory
… a general framework – the most mathematically sophisticated one available at the moment – to resolve a fundamental problem in modern physics: general relativity and quantum mechanics
… vibrating superstrings, multiple, folded, dimensions of space-time and other features of the theory are impossible to test experimentally
… Richard Dawid
… speculative, if innovative, type of epistemology
… difficult to separate such ‘science’ from New Age thinking, or science fiction,’ said George Ellis
… Post-empirical science is an oxymoron
… Leonard Susskind .. Popperazzi to label an extremely naive (in his view) way of thinking about how science works
… Stephen Hawking has declared philosophy dead
… concepts like ‘science’ and ‘pseudoscience’ are complex, multidimensional, and inherently fuzzy,
… Ludwig Wittgenstein
… to counter true pseudoscience
… non-empirical theory assessment
… we have come to the limits of what our brains and technologies can possibly do
… the luxury of discussing esoteric points of epistemology or fundamental physics /16-08-17
… entangled objects do not cause each other to behave the way they do
… ignoring the universal speed-of-light limit
… this claim is also wrong
… nonlocal causality can in general not explain quantum entanglement
… Our results drastically narrow down the remaining explanations /16-08-17
The fight to cheat death is hotting up
… eats 1,900 calories a day, 600 fewer than recommended
… calorie restriction (CR) .. seems to lessen the risk of cancer and heart disease, to slow the degeneration of nerves and to lengthen life
… “longevity escape velocity”, the point where life expectancy increases by more than a year every year
… immortality, or a reasonable approximation thereof
… ageing may not be simply an accumulation of defects but a phenomenon in its own right
… diseases compete to kill people as they age; if one does not get you the next will
… Health Nucleus. At prices starting from $25,000
… At best it might allow them to age as slowly as the slowest-ageing people do naturally
… 120 .. natural upper limit
… stem-cell therapies
… regenerative medicine /16-08-14
Wood Wide Web
… For centuries, fungi were widely held to be harmful to plants, parasites that cause disease and dysfunction. More recently, it has become understood that certain kinds of common fungi exist in subtle symbiosis with plants, bringing about not infection but connection.
… hyphae, which infiltrate the soil and weave into the tips of plant roots at a cellular level
… individual plants are joined to one another by an underground hyphal network
… A dying tree might divest itself of its resources to the benefit of the community
… young seedling in a heavily shaded understory might be supported with extra resources by its stronger neighbors
… plants to send one another warnings
… where species begin and end
… a forest might be better imagined as a single superorganism
… the social networks of plants
… which species of fungi were connecting which plants, and thereby to make an unprecedentedly detailed map of the jungle’s social network /16-08-12
there is no life after death - Sean Carroll
… "emergent" /16-07-20
The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless. - Steven Weinberg, 1993 /16-07-20
… While fully committed to secular Enlightenment values
… Secularism is neither historically inevitable, nor a logical necessity, nor a moral imperative.
… Secularism cannot claim to be the more democratic option, where it is not what people would prefer.
… judges, members of the power elite, as arbiters
… individuals only as producers and consumers
… denial of the world's most urgent problem, global warming
… why do we regard free speech as good?
… excesses of neoliberalism
… Quran, .. is due to its powerful affirmations of monotheism, and to its concern for social justice.
… reinterpretation of the sacred text, rather than by treating it as a human artefact, product of its time and place /16-07-19
What free will looks like in the brain
… decision-making and action
… Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics
… what happens in a human brain the moment a free choice is made
… parietal lobe, near the back of the brain
… frontal cortex
… the brain was preparing a purely voluntary action rather than merely following an order
… watching as someone weighed short-term rewards against long-term rewards /16-07-18
Cosmology, God And Why
… Sean Carroll
… The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself
… By poetic naturalism, Carroll means adopting the best and most inspiring way of talking about the observable, measurable world, which in the end, he argues, is all there is.
… he understands why most people are religious
… existential therapy
… Bayesian reasoning
… Do we really have souls? Carroll concludes we do not. Is death the end for us? Carroll argues that it is.
… Anthropic Principle
… universe exhibits regularities at all, and in particular that it exhibits regularities that allow for the existence of human beings, has a higher likelihood under theism than naturalism
… Terrence Deacon .. scientific understanding of consciousness that can accept a degree of immateriality
… Our lives are changing in unpredictable ways
… mindfulness that would hopefully promote good behavior
… Most of us on this rotating rock find other human beings much more worthy of our lifelong attention than the natural world we live on.
… there is and has always been something more to reality than the purely physical /16-07-18
… 13585 Justinsmith
… International Astronomical Union and the International Star Registry
… For Aristotle, the soul dissolves when the body corrupts. Many others preferred to believe that nothing dies of what comes to be, and one plausible account of what happens to the soul is that it goes to the stars /16-07-18
… mass extinctions
… extraterrestrial-impact theory seemed intellectually distasteful
… sulfur, not dust
… the asteroid was not a lone assassin but struck a global ecosystem already weakened by other injuries
… greenhouse gases
… crude oil
… sudden ignition of underground oil at the Yucatán impact site
… If we’re fortunate, we’ll just be naturally selected. /16-07-14
Loneliness belongs to the photographer
… Edward Hopper .. Andy Warhol .. David Wojnarowicz
… To be a photographer is to willingly enter the world of the lonely, because it is an artistic exercise in invisibility.
… act of predation, as if the street is a savannah and the person with a camera a large cat, silent and hungry,
… person with the camera is not hiding but receding. She is willfully removing herself from the slipstream of life; she is making herself into a constant witness, someone who lives to see the lives of others, not to be seen herself.
… hoping for anonymity
… in our requests to be heard
… To practice this art requires first a commitment to self-erasure.
… They remind us how much we want to be seen, and also how infrequently we practice the skill of seeing others.
… Click: I see you. You are not alone. /16-07-12
triple sunsets and a super-long year
… giant planet orbiting one of the three suns of a triple-star system
… Centaurus, about 98 parsecs (320 light years) from Earth
… A year on the planet lasts for about 550 Earth years.
… extreme configurations can experience exotic behaviour /Nature/16-07-08
… The axiom of choice
… counterintuitive consequence
… Zorn's Lemma
… how are we to decide on the status of an axiom, on whether to accept it or reject it? /16-07-08
how mind arises from matter or how, in turn, mind acts on the brain
… there is no nonphysical soul or ego, or at least no evidence for that
… consciousness is a kind of con game the brain plays with itself
… The brain is a computer that evolved to simulate the outside world. Among its internal models is a simulation of itself — a crude approximation of its own neurological processes. The result is an illusion. Instead of neurons and synapses, we sense a ghostly presence — a self — inside the head. But it’s all just data processing. “The machine mistakenly thinks it has magic inside it,” Dr. Graziano said. And it calls the magic consciousness.
… There is a gap in the explanation where suddenly a miracle seems to occur.
… For lack of a precise mechanism describing how minds are generated by brains, some philosophers and scientists have been driven back to the centuries-old doctrine of panpsychism — the idea that consciousness is universal, existing as some kind of mind stuff inside molecules and atoms.
… Consciousness doesn’t have to emerge. It’s built into matter, perhaps as some kind of quantum mechanical effect.
… perceptronium: atoms arranged so they can process information and give rise to subjectivity
… Giulio Tononi, whose integrated information theory
… devices as simple as a thermostat or a photoelectric diode might have glimmers of consciousness, a subjective self.
… error-correcting circuitry in a DVD player — can be many times more conscious than a human brain
… Galatea 2.2.
… Philosophers will argue over whether the computer is really conscious or just simulating consciousness — and whether there is any difference.
… its own mind-body problem /16-07-05
language assists human thinking by providing categories and concepts
… not the stuff of thought
… We don’t actually need language in order to think.
… Jean Piaget
… cognition to be independent of language
… There is a notable irony here. In an earlier age, the absence of language was used as an argument against the existence of thought in other species. Today I find myself upholding the position that the manifest reality of thinking by nonlinguistic creatures argues against the importance of language. /16-07-05
… In 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus proposed, in a mathematically rigorous way, that the Earth is not the centre of the universe
… Juno will become a 68th satellite of Jupiter on July 4th, arriving almost five years after it was launched
… 250,000 kilometres an hour
… Assistance from Earth will be impossible, for radio signals from mission control in California take nearly an hour to reach it.
… Europa, which is thought to have beneath its icy surface a liquid-water ocean that might conceivably support life
… mysterious thing is Jupiter’s origin
… whether the planet has a core /16-07-01
March of the machines
… “the discovery of this mighty power” has come “before we knew how to employ it rightly”
… deep learning
… Apple’s voice assistant, Amazon’s shopping recommendations and Tesla’s self-driving cars
… AI systems are impressive, they can perform only very specific tasks: a general AI capable of outwitting its human creators remains a distant
… technology ultimately created more jobs than it destroyed
… empathy and human interaction—traits that are beyond machines
… “basic income”, paid to everybody /16-06-30
explaining the universe through testing and factual observation
… the particular mind-set that scientists have
… healthy skepticism
… experimental mind
… nothing is ever completely settled
… The scientific orientation has proved immensely powerful.
… double our lifespan
… people often resist
… Bad science has a pattern, and helping people recognize the pattern
… Having a scientific understanding of the world is fundamentally about how you judge which information to trust.
… neuroscience and computerization are shaping understanding of everything from free will to how art and literature have evolved over time
… Education may expose people to science, but it has a countervailing effect as well, leading people to be more individualistic and ideological. /16-06-20
We are living in a computer simulation
… not in the real world
… Elon Musk
… The likelihood that we are living in “base reality,” he concluded, was just “one in billions.”
… virtual reality and the mapping of the human brain
… our far-future descendants
… consciousness can be simulated in a computer
… millions of ancestor simulations could be run by a single computer in the future
… the simulation argument bears some resemblance to the one made by René Descartes .. undetectable “evil demon”
… cheat death by uploading their minds into computers
… Watson has won “Jeopardy!”
… nervous system of a roundworm
… theological implications in the idea that we are living in a simulation
… nested simulations .. in a recursive loop
… afterlife may turn out to be an infinite journey into ever-higher levels of simulation
… it gives atheists a way to talk about spirituality
… impossibility of ultimate knowledge about the universe in which we live /16-06-13
… quantum computers made by D-Wave Systems
… which queries might benefit from these quantum machines
… 100 million times faster
… the catch-22 of quantum computing: The quantum features only work when they’re not being observed, so observing a quantum computer to check if it’s exploiting quantum behavior will destroy the quantum behavior being checked.
… quantum annealers should be able to outperform classical computers in certain narrow computing domains .. protein folding .. route planning
… to do an impossible calculation
… Quantum factorization of 56153 with only 4 qubits
… maximum clique problem
… NP-hard optimization problem
… Toward Better Tests /16-06-13
… The secret to stellar grades and thriving students is teachers.
… myth that good teachers are born, not made
… to make ordinary teachers great
… Teaching is a mass profession: it cannot grab all the top graduates
… schools neglect their most important pupils: teachers themselves
… Good teachers set clear goals, enforce high standards of behaviour and manage their lesson time wisely
… where pupils do best, for example Finland, Singapore and Shanghai
… Money is less important than you might think /16-06-10
Switzerland's voters rejects basic income plan
… 77% opposed the plan, with only 23% backing it.
… The supporters had also argued that since work was increasingly automated, fewer jobs were available for workers.
… Switzerland is the first country to hold such a vote. /16-06-06
basic income for all Swiss citizens
… an unspecified minimum income sufficient to insure a “dignified existence”
… getting a salary without working for it is a civil right
… Thomas More’s “Utopia”
… Libertarians have homed in on an income guarantee as a low-friction, low-bureaucracy way to take care of the poor
… well-paying jobs are disappearing, either to other countries with cheaper labor or to automation,
… a mere two per cent of workers would stop working entirely
… They are debating whether they should work less. /16-06-06
Stephen Hawking angered supporters of Donald J. Trump
… Hawking called Trump “a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator,”
… Moments after Hawking made the remark, Google reported a sharp increase in searches for the terms “demagogue,” “denominator,” and “Stephen Hawking.”
… Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said. “If Professor Hawking wants to do some damage, maybe he should try talking in English next time.”
… Hawking attempted to clarify his remark about the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, telling a reporter, “Trump bad man. Real bad man.” /16-06-01
Babies are born helpless, which might explain why humans are so clever
… Human intelligence is a biological mystery
… much cleverer than their closest living relatives, the chimpanzees, they are also much cleverer than seems strictly necessary
… to prove Pythagoras’s theorem
… power-hungry brains suck up around a quarter of their body’s oxygen supplies
… Perhaps intelligence is a result of sexual selection
… it is an ornament that, by virtue of being expensive to own, proves its bearers’ fitness
… simply humanity’s good fortune
… Another idea is that human cleverness arose out of the mental demands of living in groups whose members are sometimes allies and sometimes rivals
… another idea .. humans may have become so clever thanks to another evolutionarily odd characteristic: namely that their babies are so helpless
… feedback loop, in which the pressure for clever parents requires ever-more incompetent infants /16-05-30
A molecule made by trees can seed clouds, suggesting that pre-industrial skies were less sunny than thought
… the masking effect, and in turn the warming effects of carbon dioxide, might have been overestimated
… Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets (CLOUD)
… to speculate whether trees emit these compounds in part because there is a benefit to them in making their own climate
… This really does touch on the Gaia hypothesis /Nature/16-05-26
Bridge Finite-Infinite Divide
… A surprising new proof is helping to connect the mathematics of infinity to the physical world
… infinite objects exist
… Ramsey’s theorem for pairs
… finitistically reducible
… partial realization of Hilbert’s program
… to weave infinity completely into the fold of finitistic mathematics
… Banach-Tarski paradox
… does mathematics ultimately have its roots in reality?
… the paradise which Cantor has created for us
… Kurt Gödel
… When looking for a set of axioms that yield all true mathematical statements and never contradict themselves, you always need another axiom
… between the idealization and the concrete realizations
… infinite sets exist insofar as we know how to reason about them
… how exactly do they play a role? And what is the connection?
… mathematicians and philosophers
… the picture has gotten quite complicated /16-05-26
Christian preacher who became an atheist
… a self-proclaimed "extremist", Dan Barker
… 66-year-old now defends a life free of any supernatural authority
… I would counsel people to pray for healing. That’s dangerous.
… God: the Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction
… The God Delusion
… Religion is really a tool to control
… I believed that a snake spoke human language. I believed that a fish swallowed a human being. It was stupid. Something happens to the brain. You get delusional.
… “The non-religious, the secular, the freethinker. When are we going to be taken seriously enough, when right now about a quarter of our population on this continent is thoroughly non-religious?” /16-05-25
Homo Sapiens 2.0
… We need a species-wide conversation about the future of human genetic enhancement
… After 4 billion years of evolution by one set of rules, our species is about to begin evolving by another.
… everybody wants to have cancers cured
… want to live longer, healthier
… what it means to be human
… the revolution has already begun
… inevitable. Timing is the only variable
… In our world of exponential scientific advancement
… the first state-authorized genetically altered babies will be born in the UK later this year
… Preimplantation genetic selection
… The genetics of intelligence, for example, is influenced by thousands of genes.
… we’ll be able to predict people’s IQs from their genomes with significant accuracy within a decade
… Olympic sprinters or winners of the Fields Medal
… conflicts between groups and countries, the potential dangers to the species as a whole are also very real
… dangerous genetic monoculture
… But the alternative is far worse. /Kurtzweil/16-05-20
… the absurdity of equating Soviet Marxism with Marx
… Fichte being the key
… Kant’s idea of natural religion
… is Kantianism now the default position of most contemporary ethics?
… the Truth about ethics was some form of utilitarianism
… Rawls is the greatest
… rational intuitionism
… Kant was a constructivist about mathematics, but not about ethics.
… a set of moral “facts” that are independent of our procedures in making decisions
… Our procedures of deliberation are not ways of finding out independent moral truths but instead ways of “constructing” these truths, in the process of deciding what to do.
… what we ought to do
… Formula of the Law of Nature
… the general conditions of human life
… judgment as a special faculty or talent of the mind
… formula whose validity is equated with our freedom
… it does not “divide the heart from the head”
… Kant does not think that any being, not God, not we ourselves, authors or legislates
… “lies in the nature of things, the essence of things.”
… central to morality is rational self-constraint (acting from duty)
… how freedom is possible is a deep philosophical problem
… I don’t think Kant’s approach to religion is any longer viable in its original form.
… the general happiness (or whatever the end is)
… We can’t coherently deny, or even decline to affirm, that we are free.
… “Freedom can never be comprehended, nor even can insight into it be gained” /16-05-09
… WHICH would you prefer to be: a medieval monarch or a modern office-worker?
… gross domestic product (GDP)
… Faulty speedometer
… its original purpose was to measure the economy’s capacity to produce
… Stop counting, start grading
… inclusion in GDP of unpaid work in the home
… measure changes in the quality of services
… skills, brands, designs, scientific ideas and online networks—would all be valued /16-05-08
quantum computer available for anyone to play with
… May 4th, IBM announced
… power comes from two counterintuitive phenomena: superposition and entanglement
… IBM’s current offering is a five-qubit processor
… and the chip will execute it
… quantum computers answer questions probabilistically rather than definitel
… they are unlikely ever to fit on a desktop or into a smartphone /16-05-08
you’re a mindless robot with no free will
… we may confabulate reality and rationalize irrational behavior
… what we believe to be a conscious choice may actually be constructed, or confabulated, unconsciously after we act — to rationalize our decisions. A trick of the mind. /16-05-08
Human embryos grown in lab for longer than ever before
… up to 13 days after fertilization
… reignite ethical debate
… ban research on human embryos that are more than 14 days old
… we know more about fish and mice and frogs than we know about ourselves
… human embryos donated by an in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic
… using data from a 1956 study
… have identified a group of cells that shows up in the embryo around day 10 and disappears around day 12 .. This is like discovering a new organ in your body
… The implantation process is a big black box
… 14 days marks the beginning of gastrulation in humans. It is also around the latest point at which an embryo can split into identical twins. After this time, the logic goes, a unique individual comes into being. /Nature/16-05-08
… The basic ingredients of the Standard Model are easy to list, though understanding their properties is more difficult.
… Three pairs of quark fields, three pairs of lepton fields, three interaction fields, plus the Higgs field: that’s it
… the differences between matter and force, and between matter and antimatter
… the spin-statistics theorem. I’ve wracked my brain trying to come up with an intuitive explanation of it, to no avail
… bosons can collapse down to a small region. Thus, matter is made of fermions.
… All the matter you see and experience is made up of these three fermions.
Is treasure buried beneath the mountains of Poland?
… the Nazis still considered Lower Silesia to be safe ground /16-05-05
Law, not culture, is Europe’s answer to Islam
… the historically Christian countries of Europe would be making a mistake if they responded to the Muslim influx by erecting new barriers or raising high the banner of cultural nativism.
… new Muslim citizens, and indeed for practitioners of all religions including the various forms of Christianity, within a framework that is ordered not by any particular religion or culture but by the universal principles of secular law.
… Europe must now find some other way to dynamically incorporate the world of Islam without diluting its devotion /16-04-30
Wikipedia is a voluntary organization
… such systems usually end up looking a lot like 20th century bureaucracies
… a complexity scientist
… the emergence of social hierarchy
… Iron law of oligarchy
… a fairly small number of Wikipedia editors exert a major influence
… that editing inequality is increasing over time
… start with a decentralized democratic system, but over time you get the emergence of a leadership class /16-04-29
genetic technology that can kill off mosquito could eradicate malaria. But is it too risky to ever use?
… DNA contains a genetic element that has “a capacity to spread” at a “disproportionately high” rate
… artificial “selfish” gene capable of forcing itself into 99 percent of an organism’s offspring instead of the usual half
… this particular gene causes female mosquitoes to become sterile, within about 11 generations
… The mosquitoes I saw were created as
… the self-annihilating mosquitoes could be unleashed in 2029
… The technology creates risks that society has never before had to consider
… if the selfish DNA should jump the species barrier
… Rapid-fire technical advances are occurring thanks to CRISPR
… FBI is looking into
… is it ethical to eliminate any part of nature on purpose? Are you asking in a Darwinian way or a theological way?
… it’s a species competition between us and the mosquito
… what species do have is “fitness”
… specialty is selfish genetic elements
… turned into an extinction device
… how something very bad for mosquitoes could also be spread by them
… selfish gene that is harmless if one copy is present but causes sterility if two copies are /16-04-26
gender can be fluid
… Boy or girl? It’s the most binary question in biology .. But in reality
… 58 gender specification options
… Agender, Bigender, Intersex, Gender Fluid, Gender Questioning, Non-binary, Pangender, Two-spirit
… parthenogenic species
… sequential hermaphrodites
… If that dominant individual dies, the highest-ranking of the opposite sex changes sex and assumes the role.
… The sine qua non of human sex designation in humans is chromosomal
… XYY, XXY, XXX, X, or XXYY
… chromosomal sex and gonadal/anatomical sex can disagree
… Gender in humans is on a continuum
… our minds are very resistant to continua
… we think categorically
… processes faces according to gender, within 150 milliseconds
… Boy or girl? Maybe things will be different in 350 years, or 3,500 years. It’s possible. Of course, by then, maybe all anyone will be asking is which operating system you had your consciousness uploaded to. /16-04-21
… being awarded the 2016 Jean Améry Prize for European essay writing, Eurozine publishes
… From Lvov to Gliwice, from Gliwice to Krakow
… only in ancient Krakow
… Hapsburg empire
… Kolakowski distanced himself from his manifesto
… But what is poetry?
… Czeslaw Milosz's work, as rich intellectually as it is poetically
… Perhaps one day ardour will return to our bookstores, our intellects. /16-04-14
Computer generated Rembrandt
… 3-D-printing technology to produce what, at a glance, looks very like a previously unknown early portrait, of a thirties-ish man, by Rembrandt.
… The sitter has a sparkle of personality but utterly lacks the personhood /16-04-14
… By fetishising mathematical models, economists turned economics into a highly paid pseudoscience
… The failure of the field to predict the 2008 crisis
… computing technology made financial astrology explode in the 1970s and ’80s
… Faith in a divine, invisible hand, made visible by mathematics.
… In 101 BCE, Emperor Wudi
… It’s time to stop wasting our money and recognise the high priests for what they really are: gifted social scientists who excel at producing mathematical explanations of economies, but who fail, like astrologers before them, at prophecy. /16-04-06
the right of the terminally ill to die when and how they choose, and with the support of clinicians
… will thus be allowed in California from June 9th
… predicts that in the first year fewer than 450 seriously ill individuals will ask the state’s Medicaid programme for a prescription of lethal drugs. And not all will take the pills they are prescribed. /16-04-05
… Richard Feynman .. “What I cannot create, I do not understand.”
… Syn1.0 was the first human-engineered genome to be capable of controlling a cell
… Syn3.0 has the smallest genome of any self-replicating organism
… last universal common ancestor—the simplest, most minimalistic organism
… who claims that she or he understands how a cell works is
… doesn’t know what nearly a third of its genes do
… what functions are fundamental to life
… Its DNA provides just enough information for a single organism to sustain its own life, but too little to insure the long-term survival of the species. /16-04-05
mystery of mathematics is its lack of mystery
… In math, we can really understand things, in a deeper way than we ever understand anything else.
… a dirty secret in mathematics is that many unsolved problems have a similar flavour: they’re less about mysterious coincidences than about the lack of them
… as you get further away from physics, math becomes just a disorganised mess of propositions
… even the parts of math that look far removed from physics are indirectly inspired by our experience with the physical world
… peculiarities of the human brain /16-04-04
… new relationship with our goods and materials
… Quality is still associated with newness not with caring
… substituting manpower for energy
… consumers become users and creators
… remanufacturing and repair of old goods
… finding ways to disassemble material blends at the atomic level
… The linear economy is driven by 'bigger-better-faster-safer' syndrome — in other words, fashion, emotion and progress.
… Cleaning a glass bottle and using it again is faster and cheaper than recycling
… Autolib car-sharing schemes free users from the demands of ownership
… intelligent decentralization /Nature/16-04-04
Antarctic ice sheet is much less stable
… by warming ocean currents — which can eat at the underside of the ice sheet
… Before the last ice age began 130,000–115,000 years ago, for instance, sea levels were 6–9 metres higher than today — yet atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels were about 30% lower. And 3 million years ago, when CO2 levels roughly equalled today’s, the oceans may have been 10–30 metres higher. /Nature/16-04-04
emergence of life’s complexity
… “To imagine a language is to imagine a form of life.” —Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921)
… Jeremy England
… dissipative adaptation
… self-organize and emerge from simpler things, including inanimate matter
… how do you say “life” in physics? Some have argued that the word is untranslatable. But maybe it simply needed the right translator.
… something like purpose emerges
… In biology, systems are fine-tuned to act.
… creation, entails a process of giving names to things
… It could be easier for things like proteins and enzymes to emerge than we’d thought.
… in 1999, Crooks showed that a small open system driven by an external source of energy could change in an irreversible way, as long as it dissipates its energy as it changes.
… Darwinian natural selection could be recast as a special case of the more generalized phenomenon of dissipative adaptation
… As systems dissipate energy, they drift in an irreversible direction and by doing so become “exceptional”
… the very beginning of life looks a bit more like a ramp or stairway with lots of smaller incremental changes that point in the right direction
… emergent computation
… without receiving any design instructions
… Jeremy is hoping that he can avoid thinking about the chemistry and see the abstract essentials of life emerging as a physical necessity
… Umberto Eco, “translation is the art of failure.”
… England .. in Commentary magazine last year: “There is more than one viable language for describing the world, and God wants man to speak all of them.” /16-03-28
pseudolaw, a weird little cousin of pseudoscience
… conspiracy-theory versions of science and medicine
… legal version of this phenomenon, not as visible as creationism or anti-vaccine activism but in many ways as destructive
… Believers are typically intelligent
… A typical pseudolegal scheme promises to help you avoid ever having to pay taxes by invoking some obscure legal principle
… complex rituals such as using precise punctuation and lowercase letters when writing your name (‘john-stephen :smith’)
… Latin is usually involved
… pseudoscience and pseudolaw have common roots in irrational thinking
… secret knowledge
… snake oil /16-03-28
473 genes, Syn 3.0
… When it comes to genome size, a rare Japanese flower, called Paris japonica, is the current heavyweight champ, with 50 times more DNA than humans.
… in California
… Craig Venter report engineering a bacterium to have the smallest genome
… essentials needed to survive and reproduce
… It’s an important step to creating a living cell where the genome is fully ?defined,
… the function of 149 of Syn 3.0’s genes—roughly one-third—?remains unknown
… basic biology of life
… by stripping nonessential genes from Syn 1.0
… Mycoplasma genitalium 525
… experiment with Syn 3.0 in the future
… With a total of 531,000 bases, the new organism’s genome isn’t much smaller than that of M. genitalium, with 600,000 bases. But M. genitalium grows so slowly
… Syn 3.0, by contrast, has a doubling time of 3 hours
… this is the ultimate minimum genome /Science/16-03-25
After the fact
… In the history of truth, a new chapter begins
… the insistence, chiefly by Democrats, that some politicians are incapable of perceiving the truth because they have an epistemological deficit: they no longer believe in evidence, or even in objective reality.
… to accept the settled science of climate change
… "The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data"
… no one would know how to know
… I Google, therefore I am not
… in the hands of God. Trial by jury places judgment in the hands of men. It requires a different sort of evidence: facts.
… Between the thirteenth century and the nineteenth, the fact spread from law outward to science, history, and journalism.
… Somewhere in the middle of the twentieth century, fundamentalism and postmodernism, the religious right and the academic left, met up: either the only truth is the truth of the divine or there is no truth; for both, empiricism is an error.
… he place once held by “facts” is being taken over by “data.”
… whether anything, in the end, can really be said to be fully proved
… the idea that science is just another faith /16-03-22
Noam Chomsky What Kind of Creatures Are We?
… the apparent scope and limits of human cognitive capacities and what the human mind can seriously investigate
… from language and mind to society and politics
… libertarian socialism /16-03-21
… Recycling is nice, but some shop owners are trying to eliminate waste altogether.
… If you don’t use new plastic, paper or metal to begin with, you won’t have to dispose of it.
… Rethinking and reinventing groceries in the interest of the environment would require the cooperation of manufacturers, as well as consumers. /16-03-15
Mateusz Hohol: W sobotę po raz kolejny dowiedziałem się, że Michał Heller za kasę z Nagrody Templetona założył Centrum Nauki Kopernik (w Wawie). Nic w tym dziwnego (często się ta ignorancja powodowana podobnymi nazwami zdarza), tyle że tym razem się tego dowiedziałem z oficjalnego listu gratulacyjnego najjaśniejszego Prezydenta RP do Michała Hellera odczytanego w dniu jego 80 urodziny. Super. Panie Prezydencie i Jego Najjaśniejsza Kancelario - Heller założył Centrum Kopernika Badań Interdyscyplinarnych (w Krakowie). Jak się komuś składa życzenia urodzinowe to trzeba pamiętać, że diabeł tkwi w szczegółach. Szczególnie jak się kawał czasu spędzało na tej samej ulicy Brackiej (tej w Krakowie), na której facet któremu się życzy dalej spędza sporo czasu. /16-03-15
Could black holes be the dark matter?
… black-hole (BH) binary detected by LIGO may be a signature of dark matter
… about 5 mergers per cubic gigaparsec per year /Sean Carroll/16-03-14
human nature is a superstition
… species vary in all respects at any moment in time
… sceptical of the thought that species have "natures"
… Stephen Pinker's 2002 book The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature
… Four-year-olds tend to think that each species has an internal "essence"
… all dogs possess a "doggy" essence
… modern biology denies that these essences are real
… widely shared error in our intuitive ways of thinking about animals and plants
… Genome editing is, after all, a considerable technical achievement.
… Nature cannot do the ethical work intended for it. /16-03-13
… not only the data analyses that produced statistically significant results
… but all statistical tests
… the ban on publishing papers that contain P values instituted by at least one journal, could be counter-productive
… better understanding of the P value will not take away the human impulse
… “People want something that they can't really get,” he says. “They want certainty.” /Nature/16-03-08
Left and Right
… twisting snails
… the earliest molecules that make us asymmetrical
… one in every 10,000 people, who have a condition called situs inversus
… We begin life as a single fertilised cell, which divides again and again into the trillions of the adult form. At what point in that process does left begin to differ from right?
… some earlier symmetry-breaking event
… a gene called Ldia2
… called an F-molecule
… might affect the layout of organs, but does it, say, influence the asymmetry of the human brain, or whether people are right-handed or left-handed? /16-03-06
human hand was 'designed by Creator'
… PLoS ONE
… triggered a debate over the quality of editing and peer review at the journal
… “Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of the Creator’s invention”
… we are not native speakers of English, and entirely lost the connotations of some words such as ‘Creator’. I am so sorry for that.
… it should have included a citation to an appropriate deity
… journal quality
… We apologize for the errors and oversight leading to the publication of this paper. /Nature/16-03-06
Could chimpanzees have religion?
… repeated activity with no clear link to gaining food or status – it could be a ritual
… chimp approaches our mystery tree and pauses for a second. He then quickly glances around, grabs a huge rock and flings it full force at the tree trunk
… chimps throw rocks in displays of strength to establish their position in a community.
… Sacred trees
… trees with particularly good acoustics
… West African people have stone collections at “sacred” trees /16-03-04
What does it mean to care about future generations?
… future generations should be able to live as comfortably as do current generations in the developed world
… scientific knowledge, infrastructure and sophisticated economic, legal and educational institutions
… many people have 'other-regarding preferences'
… conditional cooperators
… the threat of being named publicly (within the group) as a defector is enough to keep such people cooperating
… Delay-dependent risk tolerance
… a shift to green-energy sources — will meet strong opposition
… Zurich residents use less energy than the average person in Switzerland, who in turn uses only about half of that used by most US residents
… it is possible to mobilize the better angels of our nature /Nature/16-03-02
… 10 principles of oligarchy
… 1. Reduce Democracy
… protect the wealthy from too much democracy
… 2. Shape Ideology
… 3. Redesign the Economy
… Alan Greenspan testified to Congress about the benefits of promoting "job insecurity"
… 4. Shift the Burden
… The American Dream in the 1950s and 60s was partly real
… the plutonomy and the precariat
… 5. Attack Solidarity
… 1950s was able to make college essentially free
… 6. Run the Regulators
… 7. Engineer Elections
… 8. Keep the Rabble in Line
… 9. Manufacture Consent
… Obsessive consumers are not born, they're molded by advertising. The goal of directing people to superficial consumption as a means of keeping people in their place
… also election campaigns
… 10. Marginalize the Population
… 11. Dump Massive Funding into Militarism. Why should this be included? /16-03-02
… a highly tailored education that uses technology to target each student’s “needs and passions.” Tuition is about thirty thousand dollars a year.
… software developed by AltSchool which captures, in minute detail, a student’s progress
… to capture every word, action, and interaction, for potential analysis
… the kinds of insights that can be gleaned from big data
… how little education had changed since he began school
… A three-year-old today isn’t that different
… because of technology, “a thirteen-year-old is really different.”
… to sketch out in code potential solutions to “robot tasks”—routine aspects of a teacher’s job that don’t require teaching skills
… a robot tutor in the sky that can semi-read your mind and figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are
… teachers who added digital tools were judged to be more effective educators in general
… Machines have become quite good at measuring the acquisition of arithmetical operations, but they are much less good at quantifying such skills as creativity or flexibility
… It holds that children should be prepared for the workplace of the future—and that the workplace of the future will demand individuality, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. /16-03-01
Polish scientists protest over plan to log in Białowieża Forest
… European bison in Białowieża Forest
… Jacek Krzemiński, says that there is no commercial incentive /Nature/16-02-26
hidden reality exists
… they have only ruled out a specific class of theories in which the hidden reality of any particle is local, and not influenced by something far away
… everything depends on everything
… Bohm is back
… non-local interactions /16-02-25
Brain Is Computing the Mind
… ways of seeing the brain, ways of controlling brain circuits, ways of trying to map the molecules of the brain
… thoughts and feelings and maybe even consciousness
… being a pessimist, we should still always hold open the possibility that it will be incomprehensible
… not going to be infinitely complex
… biology is not a fundamental science
… other genes modulate it
… it’s a huge combinatorial explosion
… I don’t think the maps of the brain equal the understanding of the brain
… your brain already has that information in advance. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what’s generating that information?
… much processing that we have no access to, and yet, it’s so essential to the human condition
… for small parts of mammalian brains, we’re ready to start mapping them and trying to understand how they’re computing.
… subtly shifting the activity levels of certain circuits in the brain
… subtly tuning the immune system to fight off a cancer /Edge/16-02-25
thrift as liberation rather than as deprivation
… a cheap, small, fuel-efficient automobile
… Mustachianism is “financial freedom through badassity.
… saved enough money in his twenties, working as a software engineer, to retire at age thirty.
… a wealthy man, without want, but he and his wife, who have one child, spend an average of just twenty-four thousand dollars a year.
… human optimization machine, the quintessence of that urge, which is stronger in some of us than in others,
… elevate principle over appetite
… I’ve become irrationally dedicated to rational living
… carbon tax
… If you can’t afford to lose it, you can’t afford to buy it yet—otherwise the object owns you rather than vice versa /16-02-24
edit your children’s genes?
… The changes to their genomes would almost certainly be passed down to subsequent generations, breaching an ethical line that has typically been considered uncrossable.
… prenatal genetic screening to check for conditions such as Down’s syndrome
… to select embryos that do not have certain disease-causing mutations
… Mitochondrial replacement therapy .. was approved
… What sort of world would these procedures create
… CRISPR is a bullet train that has left the station — there’s no stopping it
… In the United States, pregnancies in which a Down’s syndrome diagnosis is made are terminated in 67–85% of cases.
… Uneven access
… People without disabilities consistently underestimate the life satisfaction of those with them. /Nature/16-02-23
Meditation Changes the Brain and Body
… mindfulness meditation .. unlike a placebo, it can change the brains of ordinary people and potentially improve their health.
… much mindfulness is needed to improve health /16-02-22
Homeopathy effective for 0 out of 68 illnesses
… no discernible convincing effects beyond placebo
… there was no reliable evidence from research in humans that homeopathy was effective for treating the range of health conditions considered /16-02-22
… to offer users no less than the “perception of infinite capacity”
… Rare will be the device that is not wirelessly connected, from self-driving cars and drones to the sensors, industrial machines and household appliances that together constitute the “internet of things” (IoT).
… 10 gigabits per second and response times (“latency”) of below 1 millisecond
… extremely high radio frequencies .. mmWave
… indoors: smartphone users are increasingly using Wi-Fi connections for calls and texts as well as data /16-02-19
… An evolutionary burst 540 million years ago
… Ediacaran period
… Animal life at this point was simple, and there were no predators.
… give way to a world ruled by highly mobile animals
… rise in oxygen
… some key evolutionary innovation, such as vision
… earlier theories were overly simplistic
… the Cambrian explosion actually emerged out of a complex interplay between small environmental changes
… evolutionary arms race
… The advent of pervasive carnivory, made possible by oxygenation, is likely to have been a major trigger
… energy-hungry innovations as muscles, nervous systems
… The role of oxygen in the origins of animals has been heavily debated /Nature/16-02-18
Gravitational Waves Exist
… Just over a billion years ago, many millions of galaxies from here, a pair of black holes collided.
… a hundred times more energy than all the stars in the universe combined
… Then space and time became silent again.
… The waves rippled outward in every direction, weakening as they went. On Earth, dinosaurs arose, evolved, and went extinct.
… Albert Einstein, one of the more advanced members of the species
… LIGO consists of two facilities, separated by nearly nineteen hundred miles
… This is a completely new kind of telescope
… we are pretty ignorant about what’s going to come through /16-02-12
… After more than a decade of searching
… Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced — after months of speculation
… from the collision of two black holes about .. 1.3 billion light-years
… Einstein's general theory of relativity
… 14 September 2015
… Hunt for gravitational waves /Nature/16-02-12
Every culture ever studied has been found to make music
… flutes carved from mammoth bone some 43,000 years ago
… analyzing scans of the auditory cortex and grouping clusters of brain cells with similar activation patterns, the scientists have identified neural pathways that react almost exclusively to the sound of music — any music.
… Other sounds .. leave the musical circuits unmoved.
… Why do we have music?
… the speech and music circuits are in different parts
… it regards music as fundamental a category as speech
… Some even argue that speech evolved from music.
… music is best defined by example /16-02-11
the science that lets us understand it
… quasars beggar all metaphor
… all the fires of the sun, from its birth to its death, would be a few weeks’ worth of work to one of them? No human sense can be made from so inhuman a scale.
… The current International Celestial Reference Frame uses 3,000 quasars to define the axes against which all other measurements – of the Earth’s position, of satellites, and of everything else – are made.
… a precision of ten microarcseconds
… the wonder, like the quasar, is part and parcel of the human world. /16-02-09
… kalligrammatid lacewings, and they were doing butterflies before butterflies even were a thing. Their resemblance is a coincidence, an extraordinary example of convergent evolution
… appeared around 165 million years ago, during the Jurassic period, and died out 45 million years later /16-02-09
Museums display perfect reproductions of fragile works and visitors can’t tell the difference. Is nothing in art sacred?
… museums have been tasked with preserving and protecting our treasures
… Fakes, forgeries or copies have no place in museums
… cult of adulation for the unique work of art
… We want an authentic encounter
… art-lovers build trips
… never mind that an artwork might be the product of many hands, created in the studio system
… Visitors expect a reverberant experience when confronting an original masterpiece.
… a communion with history, a sense of time-travel,
… Dürer’s marvellous watercolours, Young Hare and Tuft of Grass, are shown to the public only for three-month periods every few years.
… Today’s printing technologies
… In an intentionally shadowy alcove
… ‘after Rembrandt’, ‘school of Rembrandt’, ‘attributed to Rembrandt’, ‘circle of Rembrandt’
… The cardinal rule is: do not mislead the public.
… Modern restorations are intentionally visually distinct from the original
… display reproductions without making it clear
… Van Eyck’s Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (1432), they prepared a 100 billion-pixel digital version
… normal light, X-ray, infrared and UV
… permitted me to see the work in a way I never had
… reproduction offering more
… ‘Authenticity is an important concept but how far do we go?’
… Caverne du Pont d’Arc
… This new cave simulacrum
… Factum Arte
… The bottom line is: do not knowingly mislead.
… ‘Relievo Collection’
… Albertina’s website, I found no notice that some of the famous graphic works on display were reproductions.
… a digital supermuseum, with billion-pixel, multispectral images of as many masterpieces as possible (the Google Art Project /16-02-06
soft, cuddly robots of the future
… inspired by flexible creatures such as octopuses, caterpillars or fish
… Instead of requiring intensive (and often imperfect) computations, soft robots built of mostly pliable or elastic materials can just mould themselves to their surroundings.
… touch people more safely
… what Darwinian evolution
… fundamentally new classes of machines
… Think about how hard it is to tie shoelaces
… Stretchable sensors can be as sensitive as skin /Nature/16-02-04
Europe, Thomas Piketty
… The far right
… a single currency with nineteen different public debts
… financial markets are completely free to speculate
… Only a genuine social and democratic refounding of the eurozone
… develop their own new political institutions
… the United Kingdom and Poland
… European Stability Mechanism
… conference of eurozone nations on debt
… new form of democratic governance
… common corporate tax would make it possible to finance investments in infrastructure and in universities
… innovation and young people
… the finest model of social welfare on earth
… make the eurozone work for the common good /16-02-04
Against Multiple Regression Analysis
… A huge range of science projects are done with multiple regression analysis. The results are often somewhere between meaningless and quite damaging.
… The correlational—the observational—evidence tells you one thing, the experimental evidence tells you something completely different.
… the guy who’s taking Vitamin E is also doing everything else right.
… enormously more deaths per million drivers who drive Ford F150 pickups than for people who drive Volvo
… who is more likely to be driving the pickup
… You know virtually nothing about the relative safety of cars based on that study. /16-02-01
Licence to edit genes in human embryos
… Scientists in London have been granted permission
… The genetic modifications could help researchers to develop treatments for infertility, but will not themselves form the basis of a therapy.
… This step in the UK will stimulate debate on legal regulation of germline gene editing /16-02-01
schizophrenia with dramatic genetic discovery
… new genetic pathway probably reveals what goes wrong neurologically in a young person
… the most significant mechanistic study about schizophrenia ever
… In patients with schizophrenia, a variation in a single position in the DNA sequence marks too many synapses for removal and that pruning goes out of control. The result is an abnormal loss of gray matter.
… C4 was "a dark corner of the human genome," he said, an area difficult to decipher because of its "astonishing level" of diversity. /16-02-01
Consciousness may be the product of carefully balanced chaos
… In a new study of how anesthetic drugs affect the brain, researchers suggest that our experience of reality is the product of a delicate balance of connectivity between neurons—too much or too little and consciousness slips away.
… Consciousness ascribes meaning to the pattern of photons hitting your retina, thus differentiating you from a digital camera. Although the brain still receives these data when we lose consciousness, no coherent sense of reality can be assembled.
… brain activity varies widely between conscious and unconscious states
… optimal level of connectivity between neurons that creates the maximum number of possible pathways.
… consciousness might emerge from a careful balancing that causes the brain to “explore” the maximum number of unique pathways to generate meaning
… “If you’re in a critical point, the brain is really chaotic,” Boly says. “If you’re far from there, it’s too monotonous or stable.” /16-01-30
Brain Maps Time
… our thoughts may take place on a mental space-time canvas
… the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex, both famous for their role in memory and navigation — can also act as a sort of timer.
… cells aren’t tuned only to space but are capable of encoding any relevant property: time, smell or even taste.
… Are there dedicated neurons in the brain doing nothing else but keeping track of time? /16-01-30
Go—a 2,500-year-old game that’s exponentially more complex than chess
… AI system went undefeated in five games
… deep learning
… vast collection of Go moves from expert players—about 30 million
… system against itself .. to generate a new collection of moves
… Monte Carlo tree search
… graphics processing units
… That includes war or business or [financial] trading.
… What if the universe is just a giant game of Go? /16-01-30
West vs. East
… the West is quite so alarmed at what is happening in the East
… Hungary and Poland – and Slovakia to a lesser degree – have discovered the magic of the conservative, authoritarian state and are moving to restrict the independence of the media and the judiciary.
… How to let Poland know that rules must be followed without shoving the country into a corner?
… What is happening in Warsaw is big trouble. /16-01-29
American politics has taken a dangerous turn
… Mr Trump
… The 50:50 nation
… America, what on earth is going on? /16-01-29
our thinking about evolution
… evolutionary function
… different forms of purpose
… human behaviour is not a ragbag of disconnected behaviour patterns with separate evolutionary histories. What evolves is an emotional constitution which shapes our lives as a whole. We have to explain particular actions by finding their place in it.
… they still believe that, behind this screen, there lie hidden the real causes, elements of evolutionary advantage
… deriving all our motivation from the single stem of “selfishness” – enlightened self-interest – is, says Darwin, radically mistaken.
… The resulting mythology of selfishness suited the Thatcherite age
… genes themselves were not actually solitary but highly co-operative
… simple atomistic pattern was neither workable nor necessary
… natural selection can perfectly well take place at a number of different levels
… The past half-century was the age of reductionism
… Now we are entering the age of holism
… group-selection is particularly plausible in the case of humans because of the invention of speech
… subjective phenomenon as a serious influence in the world
… the constant flow of inner activity by which we respond to the life around us – also affect the world
… Life for us is not just the absence of death.
… a grave objection to the sociobiological insistence that everything has an evolutionary function
… an evolutionary advantage behind every human taste – including, say, the taste for doing mathematics
… are done for their own sake because they fulfil our nature
… teleology is obsolete
… to say that feet are organs for walking on is only to say that that this is what they do
… pre-existing direction
… among many scientists is the seemingly more sceptical view that the cosmos is meaningless
… Richard Dawkins
… Nature /16-01-25
domesticated animals escape and evolve
… mobile molecular-biology lab
… chickens of Kauai are evolving into something quite different from their wild predecessors
… reflect that past, but maintaining others that had been selected by humans
… homogeneity suggests that a gene has surged through the population in the recent past, probably because it offers some benefit.
… If feralization were domestication played backwards
… brains of domestic chickens are smaller than those of junglefowl /Nature/16-01-25
Using techniques from evolutionary biology, scientists have traced folk stories back to the Bronze Age.
… relationships between versions of a story using the same tools that evolutionary biologists use to study species
… the last common ancestor of a group of stories
… Faust to blues lore, but the most ancient version, involving the blacksmith, comes from the Bronze Age!
… older than Christianity
… Despite being fictitious, they work as simulations of reality /16-01-23
Memory capacity of brain is 10 times more
… petabyte range
… two synapses from the axon of one neuron
… how the brain is so energy efficient
… help engineers build computers
… the design principle for how hippocampal neurons function with low energy but high computation power.
… brain tissue down to a nanomolecular level.
… there are actually 26 discrete sizes that can change over a span of a few minutes
… how much information could potentially be stored in synaptic connections.
… 26 sizes of synapses correspond to about 4.7 “bits” of information. Previously, it was thought that the brain was capable of just one to two bits for short and long memory storage in the hippocampus.
… Using probabilistic transmission turns out to be as accurate and require much less energy for both computers and brains /Kurzweil/16-01-23
… Science, Religion and the Nature(s) of Human Inquiry
… Faith vs Fact
… accommodationists usually are atheists, because a religious person who accepts scientific findings (as opposed to, say, a fundamentalist creationist) is just that, a religious person who accepts science
… The most famous .. accommodationists was Stephen Jay Gould.
… anti-accommodationists, like Richard Dawkins
… religious stories are best interpreted as allegories
… not seeking funding from the Templeton Foundation.
… more general belief in some sort of transcendental (i.e., non-material) entity.
… There is no logical contradiction between accepting all the findings of modern science and believing in a transcendental reality.
… a personal God who is involved in history.
… God as working through the laws of nature
… incompatibility arises from the radically different methods used by science and religion
… To even talk of a “method” used by religion to seek knowledge is an obvious category mistake.
… some “religious” claims are eminently falsifiable, and have, in fact, been falsified. /16-01-21
Consciousness doesn’t happen. It’s a mistaken construct.
… These days it’s not hard to understand how the brain can process information about the world,
… How do we get the inner feeling?
… awareness, phenomenology, qualia, experience. It seems non-physical, ethereal,
… quantum states of microscopic tubules inside the neurons
… independent of the brain altogether, as many mystics claim.
… The brain constructs inaccurate models of the world.
… The consciousness we describe is non-physical, confusing, irreducible, and unexplainable, because that packet of information in the brain is incoherent.
… act of a massive computer. The brain also describes this act to itself. That description, shaped by millions of years of evolution
… Artificial consciousness may just be a hard problem within our grasp. /16-01-15
Never Vote for Donald Trump
… Trump is precisely the kind of man our system of government was designed to avoid
… a demagogic figure who does not view himself as part of our constitutional system but rather as an alternative to it. /16-01-15
How We Learn Fairness
… monkeys hate being disadvantaged
… disadvantageous-inequity aversion
… instinctual aversion to getting less than others
… babies as young as twelve months prefer fair-minded cartoon animals to unfair ones
… Unlike other animals, we sometimes balk at receiving more than other people.
… The question for psychologists is whether our aversion to benefitting from inequality is innate, .. some form of socialization.
… The absolute number of candies matters less than my relative status.
… for older kids who are transitioning into adolescence, status doesn’t always come from having more.
… What factors in society could create a norm whereby it’s valuable to establish yourself publicly as someone who doesn’t want to receive more than others?
… Our ideas about fairness are relativistic, rather than absolute.
… fairness as a form of social signalling.
… People tend not to care about equality as an abstract principle; instead, they use fairness to negotiate their place in a social hierarchy. /16-01-13
key to climate action
… In 1992, the Catholic Church formally acknowledged that Galileo was right — Earth really does move around the Sun.
… COP21 .. Paris a “now or never” opportunity
… Pope's already famous encyclical letter of May 2015
… If science and religion are beginning to walk together, the devil remains in the politics. /Nature/16-01-04
in developed countries about 75% of an individual’s lifetime medical costs
… are spent in the last six months of life. This is clearly money wasted.
… We are wired by evolution to fear death
… extra life is often bought at the cost of gruesome treatment, such as chemotherapy
… chances of dementia
… the doctors of the future will be able to provide patients with better and more realistic predictions .. will be more honest.
… health-care costs are escalating beyond the rate of inflation, which is not sustainable.
… denial of the inevitability of death.
… not how to live a long life, but how to live a good life, and how to end it with a good death. /15-12-26
Basic Income Guarantee (BIG)
… The Finns are considering .. the Swiss, .. giving everyone enough money to survive.
… Last seriously proposed by Richard Nixon in 1969,
… the salvation of capitalism.
… modern capitalism’s most fundamental problem, lack of demand.
… Technology and capitalism have largely solved the problem of supply.
… more stuff, with fewer inputs
… we have more capital than we need.
… more and more of us replaceable by robots, software or much cheaper foreign workers.
… a robot can make an iPhone, it cannot buy one.
… post-work future.
… Basic Income Guarantee will be as fiscally stimulative as World War II
… is that it sounds too good to be true.
… Fear of scarcity is built into our DNA.
… money is something humans create, not something with fixed and limited supply.
… Adam Smith .. we humans are motivated primarily by the regard of others.
… But the very rich don’t fear unemployment, /15-12-26
Did historical Jesus really exist?
… There are clearly good reasons to doubt Jesus’ historical existence.
… a man called Jesus of Nazareth
… “Historical Jesus”
… among atheists
… the lack of early sources. The earliest sources only reference the clearly fictional Christ of Faith.
… criterion of embarrassment
… sources clearly are not independent.
… There are no existing eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus.
… So what do the mainstream (and non-Christian) scholars say about all this? Surprisingly very little /15-12-25
our Universe is part of a multiverse
… Is string theory science?
… philosophy for help
… “if a theory is sufficiently elegant and explanatory, it need not be tested experimentally”
… many universes — most of which would be radically different from our own.
… “Suggestions that we need ‘new methods’ have been made, but attempts to replace empirical testability have always failed.” /Nature/15-12-23
Myths that persist
… Vaccines cause autism - Although there are some risks associated with vaccines, the connection to neurological disorders has been debunked many times over.
… Paracetamol (acetaminophen) works through known mechanisms - Although it is widely used, there are only hints as to how it and other common drugs actually work.
… The brain is walled off from the immune system - The brain has its own immune cells, and a lymphatic system that connects the brain to the body's immune system has recently been discovered
… Homeopathy works. - It doesn't. /Nature/15-12-22
developed gigantic brains
… less obvious but equally important advantage: a peculiar sleep pattern.
… humans sleep just seven hours or so a day — “the least of any primate on the planet,”
… 22 percent of sleep in REM, the highest ratio of REM to total sleep in any primate
… REM .. it consolidates new memories into lasting impressions.
… monkey .. slept on branches, and their nights were anything but easy.
… Homo erectus slept on the ground /15-12-22
String theory, the multiverse and other ideas of modern physics are potentially untestable.
… meeting in Munich
… “need philosophers and historians of science like birds need ornithologists”
… “battle for the heart and soul of physics.”
… George Ellis and Joe Silk
… dangerous departure from the scientific method.
… “The imprimatur of science should be awarded only to a theory that is testable”
… String Theory and the Scientific Method identified three kinds of “non-empirical” evidence
… “fact of nature”
… Whether the fault lies with theorists for getting carried away, or with nature, for burying its best secrets, the conclusion is the same: Theory has detached itself from experiment.
… “Physicists, philosophers and other scientists should hammer out a new narrative for the scientific method that can deal with the scope of modern physics.”
… “is not one of ideology but strategy: What is the most useful way of doing science?”
… theory, confirmation, truth
… Karl Popper’s rule of thumb
… “not even wrong”
… falsificationism is no longer the reigning philosophy of science.
… Bayesian confirmation theory .. “.. connects nicely to the psychology of reasoning.”
… “string theory is the only game in town,”
… “unexpected explanatory interconnections,” as Dawid has termed them
… Polchinski also used Dawid’s non-empirical arguments to calculate the Bayesian odds that the multiverse exists as 94 percent
… “Popper was not a naive Popperian,”
… “Dawid’s idea of non-empirical confirmation [forms] an obstacle to this possibility of progress, because it bases our credence on our own previous credences.”
… “Keep speculating,”
… “give your motivation for speculating, give your explanations, but admit that they are only possible explanations.”
… We may never know for sure the way the universe works /15-12-20
triumph of mathematicians over philosophers
… The moment it was accepted that Aristotle had not been right about everything was a crucial turning point in the history of science.
… still in some populist quarters described as a triumph of experimental reason over religious superstition.
… Newtonianism would have been inconceivable without the tradition of belief in a creator God.
… numbers and experiments, against philosophers
… Eisenstein thesis
… a linguistic argument
… Before Columbus discovered the Americas, he argues, the idea of “discovery” literally did not exist.
… William Shakespeare had “no sense of history”
… very few people are still so “relativist” that they believe that scientific knowledge is nothing but socially constructed and that it is therefore impossible to say that quantum physics is superior to the theory of the four bodily humours. /15-12-17
… a + b = c and connects the prime numbers that are factors of a and b with those that are factors of c.
… Mochizuki’s papers, which totalled more than 500 pages
… exceedingly abstract and cryptic even by the standards of pure mathematics
… Mathematical theatre
… “The claim is an extremely important result,” .. and the community deserves to know whether it is valid /Nature/15-12-16
ultramarathoners are driven by something more secular than spirituality—they could be hungry for meaning.
… to run three thousand miles around a single city block.
… The route isn’t picturesque or awe-inspiring;
… they aren’t just driven by personal glory.
… unners who want to test themselves,
… race for a sense of harmony and balance.
… athleticism was an aspect of the road to enlightenment.
… he runs to train his mind
… “Even as I’m suffering, I recognize that I’m lucky to be putting this on myself voluntarily.”
… feeling guided by something larger than myself.
… meaningfulness, the sense that one’s life has broad value and purpose.
… distinction between happiness and meaningfulness.
… grander rewards in the distant future.
… feedback loop
… to set and achieve goals—even arbitrary ones.
… In the developed world, many of us spend the vast majority of our lives in a comfortable equilibrium. /15-12-16
Paradox at the heart of mathematics makes physics problem unanswerable
… Gödel’s incompleteness
… impossible to calculate an important property of a material — the gaps between the lowest energy levels of its electrons
… “genuinely shocking, and probably a big surprise for almost everybody working on condensed-matter theory”
… From logic to physics
… “Turing thought more clearly about the relationship between physics and logic than Gödel did”
… for an infinite lattice, it is impossible to know whether the computation ends, so that the question of whether the gap exists remains undecidable.
… The problem is that there is no rigorous mathematical theory which explains why the force-carriers have mass, when photons, the carriers of the electromagnetic force, are massless.
… methods and ideas will show that the Yang–Mills mass-gap problem is undecidable. /Nature/15-12-15
decarbonization at the Paris climate conference
… Even religious leaders have spoken mightily of the dangers of unchecked climate change.
… to cut deforestation
… Shifting whole industries into more sustainable modes
… widely discussed goals such as stopping warming at 2 °C above preindustrial levels. The better metric is whether Paris engages a growing share of industry and governments in the climate task. When the meetings in Paris are done, the real business of decarbonization must begin. /Nature/15-12-15
Signal and Noise at the Paris Climate Summit
… the signal, at its core, says that “the transition to cleaner, low-emissions energy sources is necessary, inevitable, irreversible, and beneficial.”
… Batteries, buildings, electric vehicles, and mass-transit systems
… whoever continues doing business as usual will wither.
… I.N.D.C.s, or intended nationally determined contributions,
… denying or ignoring climate change is gone.
… will it catalyze billions of dollars of investment,
… implementing penalties on CO2 pollution /15-12-14
Words can be inspiring, even when .. seem deep but say nothing
… "wholeness quiets infinite phenomena." It's complete and utter nonsense. In fact, it was randomly generated
… nearly 300 hundred participants to rate the profundity of randomly generated sentences
… they considered them to be profound or even very profound.
… proliferation and effectiveness of bull /15-12-07
How exactly did consciousness become a problem?
… Descartes and Locke considered conscious experience as something that couldn’t be wholly explained by the laws of physical nature.
… If consciousness is a secondary byproduct of physical laws, .. – then consciousness becomes truly irrelevant.
… the neuroscientists who, with increasing frequency, are proposing theories for how subjective experience might emerge from a matrix of neurons and brain chemistry.
… why is consciousness perceived as a ‘problem’?
… Heaven was often portrayed in a gorgeous shade of blue, achieved through costly pigments containing ground lapis lazuli
… Blue, here, was the wavelength of God.
… The baby of personal experience and conscious moral accountability was thrown out with the bathwater of the soul
… Descartes wanted to preserve the essence of medieval dualism while simultaneously opening up a space for mathematical science.
… art has come to represent the power of the individual perspective
… literature .. to become immersed in other people’s minds.
… Max Tegmark .. consciousness will turn out to be another state of matter
… the essence of subjectivity
… ‘that consciousness is existentially primary’ /15-12-07
Wszystko, co istnieje w poznanym dotychczas świecie,zbudowane jest z tych samych elementów fizycznych – atomów – wspólnych dla organizmów żywych i materii nieożywionej. Teza o powstaniu zjawiska życia poprzez jednorazowy akt twórczy nie jest akceptowana przez fizykę. Sądzimy, że życie od około 4 miliardów lat rozwijało się z atomów poprzez formowanie, a następnie przez interakcje prostych cząsteczek chemicznych i makrocząsteczek. W procesie ewolucji powstawało coraz więcej „części”, a relacje między nimi stawały się coraz bardziej złożone. W wyniku tych procesów powstały złożone systemy biologiczne.
Nicolaus Copernicus is famous
… Albert Einstein, with his
… The ability for seemingly constant things to evolve and change is an important aspect of Einstein’s legacy. If space and time can change, little else is sacred.
… a multiverse in which the very laws of physics themselves can change from place to place and time to time.
… We currently have no direct evidence that there is a multiverse, of course. But the possibility is very much in the spirit of Einstein’s reformulation of spacetime, or, for that matter, Copernicus’s new theory of the Solar System. Our universe isn’t built on unmovable foundations; /Sean Carroll/15-11-25
Agriculture Linked to DNA Changes
… after agriculture arrived in Europe 8,500 years ago, people’s DNA underwent widespread changes
… indirect clues .. by studying the genomes of living Europeans
… we have a time machine
… ancestors adapted to agriculture through natural selection
… DNA of Europeans today comes from three main sources.
… genomes of 230 people who lived between 8,500 and 2,300 years ago
… light skin helped capture more vitamin D in sunlight at high latitudes
… the shift to agriculture, which reduced the intake of vitamin D, that may have triggered a change in skin color
… One day, they may be able to track historic changes in the human genome across the globe over tens of thousands of years. /15-11-24
making things matters less and knowing things more
… internet of things (IoT)
… a “platform”, a layer of software that combines different kinds of devices
… A high-end car, has the digital horsepower of 20 personal computers and generates 25 gigabytes of data per hour of driving
… Apple and Google are pressing carmakers to install the operating systems
… German carmakers
… Plattform-Kapitalismus .. Google and Facebook
… user interfaces for German products are .. so complex /15-11-19
Ctrl+X for disease and Ctrl+V for talent
… Imagine if living things were as easy to modify as computer software.
… Such a vision might either excite or horrify, depending on your point of view.
… gene editing is based on a natural process.
… to ‘improve’ a person’s genetic make-up? Practically speaking, there’s no reason why not.
… improving our cognitive powers, or increasing our life expectancy, /15-11-15
Relativity and quantum mechanics are fundamentally different theories
… a quantum of space
… nothing less than a third revolution in modern physics
… It could tell us where the laws of nature came from, and whether the cosmos is built on uncertainty or whether it is fundamentally deterministic
… meaningless to ask how gravity behaves at distances smaller than a single chunk of space
… strings are drastically smaller even than the spatial structures Hogan is trying to find
… space itself might emerge from .. only two dimensions
… to build a device that could measure the exceedingly fine graininess of space
… 1e-18 m
… A success for the holometer would mean failure for .. string theory.
… the primacy of quantum mechanics runs deeper still
… General relativity is not a description of subsystems. It is a description of the whole universe as a closed system.
… Smolin’s principle of precedence
… big-small debate
… We don’t even know what time is. /15-11-10
manipulate our DNA more easily
… Feng Zhang
… Inevitably, the technology will also permit scientists to correct genetic flaws in human embryos.
… eventually be passed down to children, grandchildren
… that scientists will be able to rewrite the fundamental code of life, with consequences for future generations that we may never be able to anticipate.
… grand unified theory of genetics
… CRISPR is the Model T of genetics
… The brain is still the place in the universe with the most unanswered questions.
… Addgene .. a nonprofit repository that houses tens of thousands of ready-made sequences
… there was a reductionist approach to genetics
… created a mouse that was easy to edit .. Cas9 mouse
… that every cancer is a specific, personal disease
… Nobody is going to employ CRISPR technology to design a baby, let alone transform the genetic profile of humanity, anytime soon.
… Modern medicine already shapes our genome, .. edited out of our genome by natural selection.
… Today, though, with more than five million children on earth born through in-vitro fertilization,
… it is essential to assess both the risks and the benefits of any new technology
… If CRISPR helps unravel the mysteries of autism, contributes to a cure for a form of cancer, or makes it easier for farmers to grow more nutritious food while reducing environmental damage, the fears, like the many others before them, will almost certainly disappear. /15-11-10
BITCOIN has a bad reputation.
… This is unfair.
… European Union recently recognised it as a currency
… it is a machine for creating trust.
… The blockchain .. In essence it is a shared, trusted, public ledger that everyone can inspect, but which no single user controls.
… It is what makes possible a currency without a central bank.
… Blockchains are also the latest example of the unexpected fruits of cryptography.
… Financial-services firms are contemplating using blockchains as a record of who owns what
… to create more scrutiny and transparency could be no bad thing.
… to transform how people and businesses co-operate.
… digital currency beyond the reach of any central bank.
… The real innovation is not the digital coins themselves, but the trust machine that mints them—and which promises much more besides. /15-11-03
redesigning the basic building block of capitalism
… they are also reinventing what it is to be a company.
… and each layer has its own interests to serve and rents to extract.
… producing good short-term results, quarter after quarter.
… Family companies have a new lease of life.
… high-potential startups that go by exotic names such as unicorns and gazelles.
… young people are creating new firms in temporary office spaces, fuelled by coffee and dreams.
… The central difference lies in ownership
… new technology
… crowdsourcing sites such as Kickstarter
… programmers from Upwork
… rent computer-processing power from Amazon
… ordinary people can invest in startups directly through platforms such as SeedInvest /15-10-24
Fragment of rat brain simulated in supercomputer
… The complexity of the model far outstrips the simplicity of what is being captured
… Simulating the human brain, he says, poses huge computational challenges: whereas the rat-cortex simulation runs a billion calculations every 25 microseconds, a human simulation would require a billion times more than that. /15-10-13
… cutting global carbon emissions.
… Climate change is a serious challenge
… I will if you will
… A global carbon price
… in the Alps, villagers have successfully managed shared land for hundreds of years, /15-10-13
… impenetrable proof
… Shinichi Mochizuki
… The trouble that he faces in communicating his abstract work to his own discipline mirrors the challenge that mathematicians as a whole often face in communicating their craft to the wider world.
… The abc conjecture
… Looking at it, you feel a bit like you might be reading a paper from the future.
… Edge of reason
… I do think, based on my knowledge of Mochizuki, that the likelihood that there's interesting or important math in those documents is pretty high /15-10-13
… Energy-optimized hybrid computers with a range of processor accuracies will advance modelling in fields from climate change to neuroscience
… computers would consume about 100 megawatts — the output of a small power station
… Inexact hybrid computing has the potential to aid modelling of any complex nonlinear multiscale system
… energy-efficient hybrid computing is indispensable for modelling the brain, and hence for understanding cognition.
… human creativity arises from a close synergy between low-energy computation (in which the operation of the brain is susceptible to the brain's own thermal noise) and higher-energy determinism (in which the implications of partially random cognitive jumps can be explored algorithmically in localized parts of the brain)
… human creativity might be a by-product of evolutionary pressures to optimize the use of energy /15-10-06
There is no known physics theory that is true at every scale—there may never be.
… But if we expect our theories to be complete, that means that before we can have a theory of anything, we would first have to have a theory of everything—a theory that included the effects of all elementary particles we already have discovered, plus all the particles we haven’t yet discovered! That is impractical at best, and impossible at worst.
… Feynman was wrong to have been disappointed with his own success in maneuvering around these infinities
… superstring theory .. there is not any evidence that it actually describes the universe we live in.
… the more we learn about string theory, the more complicated it appears to be
… early expectations about its universalism may have been optimistic.
… nature, as Feynman once speculated, could be like an onion, with a huge number of layers.
… new physics to discover
… never be a final, universal theory /Krauss/15-10-06
see yourself in a world where only math is real
… what’s the time?
… what’s the place?
… a property of yourself
… In my book Our Mathematical Universe, I argue that not only spacetime, but indeed our entire external physical reality, is a mathematical structure, which is by definition an abstract, immutable entity existing outside of space and time.
… our reality is vastly larger than we thought, containing a diverse collection of universes obeying all mathematically possible laws of physics.
… we too are made of the same kinds of elementary particles
… we humans don’t yet fully understand what we are.
… onsciousness can one day be understood as a form of matter, a derivative of the most beautifully complex spacetime structure in our universe. /15-10-05
wiedza o zasadach, jakimi rządzi się metoda naukowa jest w polskim społeczeństwie znikoma.
Nie dowiadujemy się o niej w szkole,
… Nie uczymy jej na studiach,
… Tzw. popularyzacja nauki w prasie codziennej polega głównie na wyszukiwaniu sensacji i często przypomina propagowanie „naukowej” magii, urągając METODZIE NAUKOWEJ właśnie.
… chcemy dogonić świat. /Andrzej Białas/Pauza Akademicka 308/15-10-02
surprisingly cold ‘blob’ in the North Atlantic ocean
… if the circulation is really slowing we need to weigh
… dramatic melting of Greenland, by injecting large volumes of freshwater into the ocean, may be the cause.
… human-caused factors
… All eyes now turn to the scientists doing the hard work of taking direct measurements of the circulation /15-10-01
Sweden is shifting to a 6-hour work day
… We want to spend more time with our families, we want to learn new things or exercise more.
… less staff conflicts because people are happier
… Sweden - which btw is also making moves to become the world's first fossil fuel-free nation /15-10-01
Gene-edited 'micropigs' to be sold as pets at Chinese institute
… more serious research
… an unexpected byproduct — tiny pigs
… micropigs as models for human disease
… about 15 kilograms when mature
… gene editing taking biology by storm
… dogs or cats will be next
… ethicists agree that gene-edited pets are not very different from conventional breeding /15-10-01
Kotarbiński był wprawdzie powszechnie szanowany w czasie swego długiego życia, ale bywało i odwrotnie. W 1943 roku został umieszczony na liście osób przeznaczonych do likwidacji, sporządzonej przez radykalną prawicę. Powodem był jego (umiarkowany) liberalizm lewicowy i filosemityzm. Był też ceniony w PRL, o czym świadczą stanowiska, jakie piastował, i odznaczenia, jakie mu przyznano. Kotarbiński bywał (i nadal tak jest) krytykowany za zbytnią uległość wobec władz PRL. Zupełnie niesłusznie, gdyż jego postawa współpracy wypływała z realizmu praktycznego, a nie sympatii do komunizmu. Jego ateizm i antyklerykalizm sprawiły, że kilka szkół przestało go uważać za patrona po roku 1989, ale niektóre (m.in. w Andrychowie, Dzierżoniowie, Olsztynie) oparły się tej tendencji. Biblioteka Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego ma w swym hallu cztery posągi filozofów (Twardowskiego, Tarskiego, Leśniewskiego, Łukasiewicza), ale zabrakło miejsca dla Kotarbińskiego – jak wieść niesie właśnie z powodów światopoglądowych. Kotarbiński umarł w Laskach pod Warszawą. Tuż przed jego śmiercią przystanął ksiądz przy łóżku i wyciągnął rękę do chorego. Kotarbiński ją uściskał, a duchowny ogłosił potem publicznie, że filozof w ten sposób wyspowiadał się i przyjął ostatnie sakramenty. Przytaczam te fakty nie dla sensacji, ale ku przestrodze. Oto biografia i ocena jednego z wielkich współczesnych Polaków bywają ma- nipulowane gwoli doraźnych potrzeb politycznych. Dotyczy to kogoś, kto całym swoim życiem zaświadczał o respektowania moralnych imponderabiliów. Jan Woleński, Pauza Akademicka 307/15-09-25
Social sciences and humanities faculties 'to close' in Japan
… serve areas that better meet society’s needs
… linked to a low birth rate and falling numbers of students /15-09-25
Pope John Paul II
… was a globe-trotter. He introduced the open Popemobile
… He was the first Pope to visit a synagogue
… John Paul was probably seen by more people in person than anyone in history.
… But John Paul probably still left a more profound impression than almost any secular politician of his era. And the new guy seems headed down the same track. /New Yorker/15-09-22
licence to edit genes in human embryos
… fundamental insights into early human development
… to eradicate a genetic disease
… the UK could serve as a model for other countries
… that is not going to be implanted into a woman, and which will be destroyed after a few days of culture /15-09-21
Homo naledi .. a mosaic species
… suggests that nature was experimenting with how to evolve humans, .. a shockingly teleological view
… If it hadn’t been for the human ego, taxonomists would long ago have squeezed all hominoids into a single genus.
… The problem is that we keep assuming that there is a point at which we became human.
… a miraculous spark — that made us radically different.
… We simply don’t know if Homo naledi buried corpses with care
… We are trying way too hard to deny that we are modified apes.
… Why not seize this moment to overcome our anthropocentrism
Deep Learning Machine Teaches Itself Chess
… by evaluating the board rather than using brute force to work out every possible move.
… the top 2.2 percent of tournament chess players.
… neural network .. faster computers .. massive annotated datasets to train the networks.
… now routinely outperform humans in pattern recognition tasks such as face recognition
… randomly choosing five million positions from a database of computer chess games. .. then created greater variety by adding a random legal move to each position
… played against itself with the goal of improving its prediction /15-09-18
Richard Dawkins: Brief Candle in the Dark
… The Selfish Gene .. genes, not organisms, were the targets of natural selection.
… for evolution, against design in nature,
… the 'new atheism', a fundamentalist sect that has mounted a scientistic crusade against all religion.
… Dawkins has a quantitative turn of mind, but is better at algorithms than theorems. So indeed is life itself, which is why biology has so few laws.
… Today's genome is much more than a script .. Many researchers continue to find selfish DNA a productive idea, but taking the longer view, the selfish gene per se is looking increasingly like a twentieth-century construct.
… For a time, Dawkins was a rebellious scientific rock star. Now, his critique of religion seems cranky, and his immovably genocentric universe is parochial. /15-09-18
Letter from the Vatican .. A determined Pope Francis moves to reform a recalcitrant Curia. ... during the final years of his papacy, when, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, he was severely incapacitated, many things went wrong. ... John Paul II, a century later, with his doctrinal orthodoxy and demands of strict obedience to the Pope. ... “Every Pope is different,” he said. “Every Pope reflects his own time and is the right Pope for that particular time. And so the Church adapts. This is the secret to its survival over two thousand years, with the help of the Holy Spirit.” /Alexander Stille/15-09-14
Bóg bez znaczenia ... oświeceniowi deiści i agnostycy, obawiający się, że utrata przez lud wiary w boga mogłaby oznaczać zwolnienie hamulców .. Helena Eilstein, jak wielu nieteistycznych, myślicieli, wskazuje, że taką postawę należy uznać za "moralnie kwestionowalną, niezależnie od tego, czy by się tak czyniło po to, by poskromić «bestię» w człowieku", czy też po to , by chronić ludzi przed rozpaczą egzystencjalną /Janusz A. Majcherek/15-09-14
Me & my brain .. neuroscience's closet dualism ... "double-subject fallacy": treating the brain and the entire person as two independent subjects who can simultaneously occupy divergent psychological states and even have complex interactions with each other-as in "my brain knew before I did." ... the origins of such writing .. its relevance to the debate on legal and moral responsibility. /15-09-14
Descartes' Error ... If the whole brain is doing a job for 'us', then what is left to be the basis of 'we'? ... For thousands of years, humans have been comfortable with the idea that each person's fundamental essence is something other than the body itself /15-09-14
human intelligence and AI will co-evolve ... computers would gain human-level ability around the year 2050, and superhuman ability less than 30 years after. ... AI can be thought of as a search problem over an effectively infinite, high-dimensional landscape of possible programs. Nature solved this search problem by brute force ... genetic architecture of complex traits such as human cognitive ability. ... genomic selection of embryos ... The potential for improved human intelligence is enormous. ... IQ of over 1,000 .. it is far beyond our own. ... These two threads—smarter people and smarter machines—will inevitably intersect. ... ethical considerations. Rebooting an operating system is one thing, but what about a sentient being with memories and a sense of free will? ... huge clusters of GPUs .. have recently surpassed human performance .. image or character recognition. ... Understanding neural networks in their full generality is a problem that, like quantum foundations, tests the limits of the human mind. ... feedback loop: Better human minds invent better machine learning methods, which in turn accelerate our ability to improve human DNA ... the ordinary human (rapidly losing the ability to comprehend what is going on around them); the enhanced human ... brain interfaces .. human minds uploaded into cyberspace /15-09-07
President Obama warned ... "Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety. Now. Today.” ... no more than 2 degrees Celsius ... “The negotiations’ goal has become what is politically possible, not what is environmentally desirable.” ... carbon pollution /15-09-07
Cities are starting to put pedestrians and cyclists before motorists. ... Cyclists and motorists have never liked sharing the road. ... to keep petrolheads and pedalophiles apart. ... close some roads to cars on weekends. ... Amsterdam and Copenhagen are the pacesetters, with a third of trips made by bicycle. /15-09-04
every society offers remedies for the anxiety that the fact of mortality evokes. Religions have their afterlives, while secular faiths offer continuity with some larger entity – nations, political projects, the human species, a process of cosmic evolution ... By leaving a mark, we can feel ... it might seem that the whole of human culture is an exercise in death denial. ... The Worm at the Core ... many human beings have welcomed their mortality. ... longing for everlasting life has been at its strongest in societies and individuals whose values are shaped by monotheism ... Greek polytheism .. everlasting life might be a curse – an eternity of boredom. ... It is unreasonable to look to philosophy for remedies for this quintessentially human self-division. Better take up a religion, or else accept and enjoy the short, uncertain life we are given. /John Gray/15-09-02
How Reliable Are Psychology Studies? ... reliable proportion might be unnervingly small. ... the publication of studies that documented impossible effects like precognition, ... outright fraud ... publication bias ... p-hacking ... torture positive results out of ambiguous data. ... reproducibility crisis ... Does this mean that only a third of psychology results are “true”? ... science working as it should in being very self-critical and questioning everything, especially its own assumptions, methods, and findings. /Nosek/15-09-02
Fearing Artificial Intelligence ... lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) that will make life-and-death decisions without human intervention. ... computers will take away all the jobs that humans do, including the ones that require intelligence ... destroy or enslave humanity ... thinking, planning, linguistic expression, science, art – become automated ... Who is responsible for a lethal act committed .. human builders did not explicitly program ... towards a post-human future ... Accelerated Non-Biological Evolution ... Even machines may lose control of what greater machines may emerge rapidly through such hyper-evolution. ... machines complex enough to be intelligent will also bring with them their own suite of biases, emotions and drives. ... Even the child does not entirely inherit the parents' value system. ... very large-scale neural networks capable of generalized learning without explicit guidance /15-08-31
Machine ethics ... Asimov .. the Three Laws of Robotics .. 1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; 2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; and 3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws. ... toy robot called Nao was programmed to remind people to take medicine .. nontrivial ethics questions .. how should Nao proceed if a patient refuses her medication? ... Learning algorithms then sorted through the cases until they found patterns that could guide the robot in new situations ... robot can extract useful knowledge even from ambiguous inputs ... get better at ethical decision-making as it encounters more situations ... The principles that emerge are not written into the computer code, so “you have no way of knowing why a program could come up with a particular rule telling it something is ethically 'correct' or not” ... creating programs with explicitly formulated rules, rather than asking a robot to derive its own. ... the last thing you want is to send an autonomous robot on a military mission and have it work out what ethical rules it should follow in the middle of things ... the outcomes of ethical machine programs are always knowable. ... By contrast, the machine-learning approach promises robots that can learn from experience, which could ultimately make them more flexible and useful than their more rigidly programmed counterparts. ... to combine the approaches ... Google's driverless cars ... how to program cars to both obey rules and adapt to situations /15-08-31
virtually unassailable version of Bell's test ... the first Bell experiment that closes both the detection and the communication loopholes. ... using both light and matter. ... ingenious and beautiful experiment ... named on a Nobel prize /15-08-31
The disconnect between religion and culture ... It is no longer possible to contrast a "secular" West with a "religious" East, ... even in Muslim countries. ... A society can consist of a majority of believers and still be secular, as in the United States. ... does not mean that people become atheists, but that they care less about religion. ... Since the 1960s, the old moral order has indeed been replaced by a new dominant culture. This culture is based on freedom, particularly sexual freedom, and materialism; ... This rise of pluralism .. is a sign of secularization. ... eviction of religion from mainstream culture. /15-08-23
It is perhaps the most famous experiment in neuroscience .. Libet ... two pervasive intuitions we have about the mind. .. our minds are a separate thing from our physical selves – a natural dualism .. the belief that we know our own minds. /15-08-23
fusion reactor ... running within 10 years ... MIT's new reactor .. the ARC reactor ... uses new commercially available superconductors /15-08-23
The physicist .. explains ... Dark matter — the unseen 80 percent of the universe’s mass ... complex dark matter ... dark sector ... dark atoms and dark photons ... dark sector and our own sector — only communicate by gravity /15-08-22
THE genome is written in an alphabet of just four letters. ... technology promises to make it possible to edit genetic information quickly and cheaply. ... correct terrible genetic defects ... parents building their children to order. ... scientists in China .. That is a Rubicon ... CRISPR’s ethics .. practical and philosophical ... side-effects ... It may take a generation to ensure that the technology is safe. Until then, couples with some genetic diseases can conceive using in-vitro fertilisation and select healthy embryos. ... humans play God. But medicine routinely intervenes ... Some might see being short or myopic as problems that need fixing. ... Deaf parents may prefer their offspring to be deaf too ... to make children smarter, should that option really be limited to the rich? /15-08-22
College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. ... literally anonymous bureaucracy ... education in the age of neoliberalism. ... market fundamentalism, ... to produce producers. ... Of course we provide our students with a real education ... Everybody talks about the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and math — but no one’s really interested in science, and no one’s really interested in math ... Modernity is a condition of ever-increasing acceleration ... Students rarely get the chance to question and reflect anymore ... Youth, now, is nothing more than a preliminary form of adulthood, ... deleting the phrase: Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth. .. The university’s mission would henceforth be to meet the state’s workforce needs. ... All this explains a new kind of unhappiness I sense among professors. ... the vigorous intellectual dialogue you get to have with vibrant young minds. That kind of contact is becoming unusual. ... Students will come to your office — rushing in from one activity, rushing off to the next — to find out what they need to do to get a better grade. Very few will seek you out to talk about ideas /Deresiewicz/15-08-15
People are more likely to act less emotionally and more rationally when speaking their second language ... Moral decisions tend to be made using two thought processes—one subconscious, one conscious. ... Speaking in non-native languages can also free people from self-imposed moral limits. ... Speaking in a second language, may be one of the most moral things you can do. /15-08-15
What kind of world is our code creating? ... Until we make contact with extraterrestrial intelligence, neural nets are probably the ablest non-human thinkers we know. ... Artificial systems show us intelligence spans a vast space of possibilities ... The problem isn’t just that machines think differently from people. It is that people can’t figure out why. ... computers, even though they’re performing tasks that we perform, are performing them in ways that are very different. ... pareidolia /15-08-10
Neuroscience .. I ... you hear yourself talking: an autopilot version of yourself seems to have taken over. ... who is the 'I' that anxiously tries to regain control? ... is there still a single self, experienced from the outside? ... the 'split' dissolves quickly and you slip back into the driver's seat. ... depersonalization ... autism ... out-of-body experiences ... it questions the axiomatic certainty of the Cartesian 'I think, therefore I am'. ... paradox that the concept of self, often seen as elusive if not illusory, is so eminently suited to tightening these various narrative threads. /15-08-09
Bioethics .. more harm than good ... self-reflection among ethicists ... from fetal stem cells to human gene editing, offer huge potential for treating disease. ... Steven Pinker .. ethical oversight delays innovation and offers little benefit. ... the future of biotechnologies is so difficult to accurately predict ... The primary moral goal for today’s bioethics can be summarized in a single sentence. Get out of the way. /15-08-09
CLIMATE change puts humanity at risk. The Pope’s celebrated encyclical letter ... Perhaps for the first time in history, there seems to be a broad consensus among scientists. ... loss to society because of catastrophic climate change is so large that it cannot be reliably estimated. ... an illustrative figure of $336m billion as the cost of human extinction. ... the value of life of unborn generations ... the current inertia that climate negotiations suffer from. /15-07-30
Faith and science ... Pope Francis has found a meeting place for those with extreme religious and environmentalist stances ... Pope has suggested that humans should not breed “like rabbits” ... Protestant conviction that God created natural resources for humans ... compromise between the extremes of the religious and environmentalist positions could also help to defuse other sources of tension between faith and science. ... Protestant churches: choose between science and faith. ... in the United States especially, atheism is over-represented among scientists ... respect for science is now divided along political lines too ... Pope Francis .. recognition that the economy and the environment are inextricably linked, especially for the desperately poor, builds on a foundation that is older and deeper than the recent US culture wars. /15-07-30
The arrow of time ... why the universe started out so orderly ... The secret ingredient .. is gravity. ... two futures that share one past. ... the universe is eternal. ... all the particles would clump together into a homogeneous ball, a moment of minimum complexity. ... What we know as the universe could actually be just one of a pair ... gravity-driven arrow of time must have arisen. ... the Janus point /Julian Barbour/15-07-18
The end of capitalism has begun ... information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. ... The old ways will take a long while to disappear, but it’s time to be utopian ... individualism replaced collectivism and solidarity ... reshaping the economy around new values and behaviours. I call this postcapitalism. ... hugely diminish the amount of work needed ... information is corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly. ... The biggest information product in the world – Wikipedia – is made by volunteers for free ... in order to put a value on data, neither the cost of gathering it, nor the market value or the future income from it could be adequately calculated. ... Information goods are freely replicable. ... In the “Fragment” Marx imagines an economy ... “ideal machine”, which lasts forever and costs nothing. ... postcapitalism – whose precondition is abundance ... we can see their prefigurative forms in the lives of young people ... design of the postcapitalist world, as with software, can be modular. ... We need a project based on reason /15-07-18
How We Decide Sam McNerney. ... Hard Problem ... recent wave of reductionist euphoria ... the radical subjectivity of experience. ... an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is like to be that organism. ... Aesthetics will be propelled to the forefront of philosophy as a crucial part of metaphysical biology ... Humanities vs. STEM ... The humanities are in crisis. They’re dying. ... STEM—science, technology, engineering, mathematics—is now part of every university’s lingua franca. ... Empiricism Run Amok? ... The humanities touch the inner parts of our minds and souls the way technology cannot. ... into a post-human world. And that might sound great to logical positivists and atheists and neurobiologists. ... the BRAIN Initiative as a hubristic endeavor to reduce the beautiful messiness of humanistic creativity to the neatness of a mathematical equation. ... Science has brought us to the end of our childhood. ... Once we free ourselves of magical thinking ... Will the humanities sink under the weight of science? /15-07-16
pentaquark particle spotted at CERN ... An exotic particle made up of five quarks has been discovered a decade after experiments seemed to rule out its existence. ... the forces that hold quarks together ... testing grounds for quantum chromodynamics (QCD) /15-07-16
linking together animal brains with electrodes. ... At least some times, more brains are better than one, ... people to join together ... Surgeons might collectively operate on a single patient. ... exotic ethical quandaries ... Through trial and error, the rats learned how to consistently synchronize their brains, making it possible for the rats to act like a simple computer. ... neural privacy is something we should worry about, /15-07-16
Computers can spot symptoms of depression psychiatrists may miss ... IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing ... analysis of depressed people’s speech .. facial expressions and eye movements ... uantifying what was previously a qualitative observation ... vowel-space ratio ... not yet proposing that their program replace psychiatrists. ... Working together, human and machine /15-07-13
The Stanford Prison Experiment ... Professor Philip Zimbardo in 1971 ... randomly assigned roles of either ‘prison guard’ or ‘prisoner’ ... seemingly ordinary people can be manipulated by their environment into committing very bad acts. ... Isen and Levin found in 1972 that people who had just found a dime were 22 times more likely to help a woman who had dropped some papers than people who had not. ... situationism ... We create an illusion of freedom by attributing more internal control to ourselves, to the individual, than actually exists. ... What does it mean for ethics when moral behaviour appears to be largely governed by something outside ourselves? ... how is a virtue-centered ethical view plausible at all? ... biological determinism. One might go further and argue that, in the end, everything reduces to physical determinism anyway. ... before judging others .. we should realistically consider /15-07-07
Lawsuits about what it means to be an employee could shape the future of big industries ... she was an employee rather than, as Uber claims, an independent contractor .. social security ... in America, as in many other rich countries, employment law has failed to keep up with the changing realities of modern work. ... “on-demand” economy ... Forcing McDonald’s to become a co-employer ... Uber’s number of drivers has been doubling every six months ... The last thing the country needs is for over-strict interpretations of outdated laws to kill exciting new businesses and sabotage jobs. /15-07-03
Confirmation Bias - Test Your Awareness (Whodunnit?) YouTube/15-07-01
Palaeontologists hope that software can construct fossil databases directly from research papers. ... DeepDive ... Text mining ... The machine is really clear about uncertainty ... to extract 192,000 opinions on the classification of taxonomic names ... It's a little scary, the machines are getting that good. ... research papers to be described more systematically in the future. /15-07-01
benefits and risks of gene editing and artificial intelligence ... to modify human .. “unpredictable effects on future generations” and “profound implications for our relationship to nature” ... Concerns are coming from the silicon sector as well. Last year, the physicist Stephen Hawking proclaimed that rapidly advancing artificial intelligence (AI) could destroy the human race. ... When new technologies are introduced into complex socio-technical systems, everyone is ill-informed about the risks. ... Scientists are not elected. They cannot represent ... World Wide Views /15-06-30>
Super-muscly pigs created by small genetic tweak ... meaty pigs could become the first genetically engineered animals to be approved for human consumption ... ‘double-muscled’ pigs ... Kim used a gene-editing technology called a TALEN ... Rather than trying to create meat from such pigs, Kim and Yin plan to use them to supply sperm that would be sold to farmers for breeding with normal pigs. The resulting offspring, with one disrupted MSTN gene and one normal one, would be healthier, albeit less muscly, ... “I think China will go first,” says Kim. /15-06-30
Software engineers at Google have been analyzing the 'dreams' of their computers. ... testing the ability of Google's servers to recognize and create images of commonplace objects ... artificial neural network is like a computer brain, .. reverse the process ... The computers have the ability to see images in objects in a way that artists can only dream of replicating. /15-06-26
If Mars was the mother planet, Earth would have been the nurturing planet. ... The magnetosomes found in earthly bacteria and in the Martian meteorite ... Mars and Enceladus and other /15-06-19
Schrödinger's cat ... warped space-time prevents quantum superpositions of large-scale objects. ... Somewhere in interstellar space it could be that the cat has a chance to preserve quantum coherence ... quantum physics applied to classical general relativity. In that way it doesn’t change our picture of the world /15-06-18
The modern human rights movement turns 40 ... The language of human rights has become the lingua franca ... Solidarity in Poland, Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia, and the Moscow Helsinki Group /15-06-18
the first direct proof of a metamorphosis between .. neutrinos — .. ‘muon’ and ‘tau’ ... OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tracking Apparatus) at the Gran Sasso ... 730 kilometres ... It could have been six — or four, or three /15-06-17
Pope Francis .. to limit climate change /Nature/15-06-16
For five years I worked part-time for the poet and Nobel laureate Czesław Miłosz at his home in the Berkeley Hills. /15-06-16
The Attack on Truth We have entered an age of willful ignorance ... only 53 percent of American adults knew how long it takes for Earth to revolve around the sun. ... ignorance coupled with the decision to remain ignorant. ... scientifically absurd postmodernist paper ... disbelief in climate change. ... Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber .. to win arguments. .. the discovery of truth is only a byproduct. ... One likely candidate is the Internet. ... With the removal of editorial gatekeepers /15-06-14
DO physicists need empirical evidence to confirm their theories? ... “sufficiently elegant and explanatory.” ... Higgs boson .. at the LHC marked the end of an era. ... We also can’t know how to truly understand the Big Bang, ... Are superstrings and the multiverse, .. anything more than modern-day epicycles? ... If the upgraded collider does discover supersymmetric particles, it will be an astonishing triumph of modern physics. But if nothing is found, ... /15-06-11
ultra-elites are allowed to push the limits of human intelligence, while the less fortunate ... Increase concentration with Ritalin, for instance, and your creativity could suffer. ... But the day may come, .. personalized pills ... transcranial direct-current stimulation, ... deep-brain stimulation could also ensure that we remain smart for longer. ... And why stop at the Internet? A future mind could potentially connect directly to other future minds. ... not of stimulating the brain but of reengineering it. ... CRISPR ... engineering supersmart babies. ... our brains have evolved over millions of years and might already be at optimal neurochemical equilibrium, /15-06-10
Computers Redefine the Roots of Math ... Voevodsky ... Coq ... the move to computer formalization is necessary because some branches of mathematics have become too abstract to be reliably checked by people. ... Set theory .. as a foundation .., but it can’t readily be translated into a form that computers can use ... Type theory .. Bertrand Russell ... to keep track of the various ways in which two objects .. are equivalent ... Infinity-groupoids encode all the paths in a space, including paths of paths, and paths of paths of paths. ... ideas from topology come into the very foundation of mathematics. ... univalent foundations /15-06-03
We are the little epiphenomena that occur along the way from a simple low entropy past to a simple high entropy future. ... We don't know the right quantitative description for complexity. This is very early days. This is Copernicus, not even Kepler ... existential anxiety ... My own work is that of a traditional pencil and paper theorist. I own a computer. I mostly use it for email and looking at the Internet. ... the patterns in the microwave background, .. to take these clues that the universe is giving us and turn them into quantitative theories ... Feynman's desk ... The Bayesian Second Law of Thermodynamics. ... a book on quantum field theory or particle physics, words like cause and effect appear nowhere in the book. ... why notions of cause and effect work in the macroscopic world even though they're absent in the microscopic world, no one completely understands that. ... Part of that big region becomes our universe, ... the question is a combination of science and philosophy once again. ... string theory ... inaccessible to our practical experimental abilities. Maybe even our impractical ones ... ask Karl Popper about that, he would say these theories are perfectly scientific, .. He never said it would be easy to falsify things, ... ... Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia .. "You're a dualist" .. Descartes never found a satisfactory answer ... minds—consciousness—are not separate from the stuff out of which we are made. It is an emergent phenomenon, if you like. /Sean Carroll/15-06-02
to look beyond the goal of merely making artificial intelligence more powerful. ... artificial intelligence that is “provably aligned” with human values. ... It might be that human values will forever remain somewhat mysterious. ... neuro-inspired learning algorithms ... There might be some bits and pieces left in the corners that the machine doesn’t understand or that we disagree on among ourselves. ... You see the behavior, and you’re trying to figure out what score that behavior is trying to maximize. ... that’s an incredible resource for machines to learn what human values are—who wins medals, ... Could you prove that your systems can’t ever, no matter how smart they are, overwrite their original goals as set by the humans? ... AI systems that rewrite themselves? /15-05-25
The Anthropocene - with Jan Zalasiewicz /15-05-23
faith and evolution and climate denial ... religious beliefs and the rejection of science ... religion has no conflict with science at all ... correlation between religiosity and less worry about climate change. ... atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, non-Orthodox Jews ... Southern Baptists, Pentecostals and other more conservative ... Catholics fall a bit below the zero line /15-05-23
stan polskich szkół wyższych ... nikt nie chce przyznać, że jest głową, więc zapewne głowy po prostu nie ma. /ABBA/15-05-22
In modern science, .. we've gotten used to the idea that science doesn't offer meaning in the way that institutional religions did in the past. .. this idea that modernity puts us in a world without meaning .. may be completely wrong. ... origin story .. It's full of meaning. ... a story that has a beginning, and of course, cosmologists are trying to look beyond that beginning. ... human language is more efficient. It's crossed a threshold beyond which information accumulates faster than it's lost. .. That is the foundation for explaining everything that makes us different. ... And of course, Godot never turns up. ... universe which can blindly create interesting and complex things. That's the story. ... the word "scientism" is just science with a pejorative loading. ... science is like all philosophical traditions. ... for science to present itself as meaningful, to present itself as being as meaningful as any other great philosophical tradition, and, in addition, much more powerful because it sums over so much more information. And it's global. ... mismatch between the big story which they get from their churches, and the science that created the iPhone ... Chomsky's idea of a slight neurological change that gave us grammar /David Christian/15-05-21
The Myth of American Meritocracy ... How corrupt are Ivy League admissions? ... nearly half the students taking a Government course on the role of Congress had plagiarized or otherwise illegally collaborated on their final exam. ... The rise of a Henry Ford, from farm boy mechanic to world business tycoon, seems virtually impossible today, as even America’s most successful college dropouts such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg often turn out to be extremely well-connected former Harvard students. ... privileging the privileged ... Asian-Americans as the “New Jews” /15-05-21
Sometimes it seems surprising that science functions at all. ... “Why most published research findings are false.” ... false or exaggerated ... consciously cherry-picking data to get their work published ... journal publication policies ... common modes of thinking that lure us toward wrong but convenient or attractive conclusions. ... Brian Nosek .. “motivated reasoning” ... Karl Popper ... “human factors” in the collection of statistics. ... “crisis of replicability” ... Journal referees might be inclined to reject negative results as too boring ... Open Science Framework (OSF) /15-05-20
AI ... Powerful computers will reshape humanity’s future. ... The question is how to worry wisely. ... digital assistants will suggest promising hypotheses for academic research ... image-classification algorithms will allow wearable computers to layer useful information onto people’s views of the real world ... philosophers are still a long way from an understanding of how a mind might be made ... A car that drives itself better than its owner sounds like a boon; a car with its own ideas about where to go, less so. ... humans have been creating autonomous entities with superhuman capacities and unaligned interests for some time. Government bureaucracies, markets and armies: all can do things which unaided, unorganised humans cannot. ... the huge benefits from the dawn of AI. /15-05-08
New Transparency ... non-believing clergy as “canaries in a coal mine.” ... we are now entering a really disruptive age in the history of human civilization, ... compare this to the Cambrian Explosion ... increased transparency of the ocean made eyesight possible, and this changed everything ... something similar is happening in human culture ... not just religions but also universities, ... there’s a place in the world for organizations that are bound together by tradition, by music and ceremony and texts /Daniel Dennett /15-05-07
Chemistry That Led to Life on Earth ... not to build the ribose and the sugar units separately in textbook fashion, but to construct a substance that was part sugar and part base. ... The door to the RNA world had at last been opened. ... Life may still be unlikely, but at least it’s beginning to seem almost possible. /15-05-06
Richard Dawkins, This Is My Vision Of "Life" ... if there is life elsewhere in the universe, it will be Darwinian life. I think there's only one way for this hyper complex phenomenon which we call "life" to arise from the laws of physics. ... it produces machines which can run, and walk, and fly, and dig, and swing through the trees, and think, and produce the whole of human technology, human art, human music. ... at some point in history, about 4 billion years ago, a replicating entity arose, ... the great majority of survival machines are actually discrete organisms, Edge /15-05-01
In a world first, Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. ... to reignite an ethical debate. ... to modify the gene responsible for ß-thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder ... Some say that gene editing in embryos could have a bright future because it could eradicate devastating genetic diseases before a baby is born. Others say that such work crosses an ethical line ... rejected by Nature and Science, in part because of ethical objections /15-04-28
Neuroscience reveals the seemingly novel fact that “we are not the authors of our thoughts and actions in the way people generally suppose”. ... the brain’s chemistry consistently determines a decision prior to our consciously making that decision. ... This is a process not dissimilar to intuition, ... Our choices may be rooted in our physiology, our genetic makeup, but out of these arises something that was once called “character”, and it is this that is the final arbiter on choice. ... Character is the complex accumulation of our history ... the absence of the idea of a free will in antiquity. In its place is the notion of the good life /15-04-28
About 2,500 years ago something changed the way humans think. ... rise to the world's major moral religions ... morality as a necessary social stabilizer in increasingly large and volatile human communities. ... recent study published in Current Biology point to a different factor: rising affluence. ... religions abruptly emerged when members of a population could reliably source 20,000 calories of energy a day ... with a steady energy supply, we had more time to cooperate, cultivate skills and consider consequences. /15-04-20
Debunking of Moral Realism ... Sharon Street ... The argument begins from the empirical premise that evolutionary forces have influenced our moral beliefs, something that is plainly true, to a sceptical conclusion that our moral beliefs are unjustified. So the argument is essentially that since moral beliefs were not caused by moral facts, we have no reason to think that our moral beliefs could be true. ... What distinguishes the evolutionary debunker from other anti-realists is that she is not trying to show that there are no moral facts, but rather that there is no moral knowledge. ... natural selection are driven by fitness and survival, and truth doesn't enter the picture. ... Steven Pinker's towering work The Better Angels of our Nature /15-04-15
We need new models of popular physics communication ... that clearly explains the mysteries of quantum mechanics to the layman would not be especially enlightening. ... Very, very few people lie at the intersection of "highly accomplished scientist" and "highly accomplished writer", and Dyson fits the bill ... Laura Fermi's delightful "Atoms in the Family" ... physics as poetry, physics as drama, physics as fiction, physics as comic characters /15-04-13
Are We Really Conscious? OF the three most fundamental scientific questions about the human condition, two have been answered. First, what is our relationship to the rest of the universe? Copernicus answered that one. We’re not at the center. We’re a speck in a large place. Second, what is our relationship to the diversity of life? Darwin answered that one. Biologically speaking, we’re not a special act of creation. We’re a twig on the tree of evolution. Third, what is the relationship between our minds and the physical world? Here, we don’t have a settled answer. ... We have an awareness of information we process. What is this mysterious aspect of ourselves? ... a shift from a credulous and egocentric viewpoint to a skeptical and slightly disconcerting one: namely, that we don’t actually have inner feelings in the way most of us think we do. ... Patricia S. Churchland and Daniel C. Dennett. .. How does the brain go beyond processing information to become subjectively aware of information? The answer is: It doesn’t. ... And there is no way for the brain to determine through introspection that the story is wrong, because introspection always accesses the same incorrect information. ... Attention: a real, mechanistic phenomenon that can be programmed into a computer chip. Awareness: a cartoonish reconstruction of attention .. awareness is not an illusion. It’s a caricature. ... a system needs at least a rough model of the thing to be controlled. ... It’s best to be skeptical of intuition. (OCT. 10, 2014) /15-04-10
number theory, algebra and string theory ... in particular dimensions, the first two of which were 1 and 196,883 ... j-function ... The monster has more than 1053 elements ... the universe has tiny hidden dimensions, too small to measure, ... Umbral Moonshine Conjecture ... K3 surfaces ... when we understand what moonshine is, it will be in terms of physics ... The string theory underlying umbral moonshine is likely to be “not just any physical theory, but a particularly important one,” ... connection between moonshine and quantum gravity ... 194 classes of black holes ... Umbral Moonshine Conjecture is “like looking for an animal on Mars and seeing its footprint, so we know it’s there,” /15-04-10
252 million years ago .. carbon dioxide from volcanoes made sea water lethal ... pH levels dropped by about 0.7 units over 10,000 years /15-04-10
Earth and Moon What if Theia and the proto-Earth already shared the same chemical composition? /15-04-10
NASA is planning to deflect an asteroid in 2022 — to learn how to protect Earth ... crashing into an asteroid at more than 13,000 miles per hour ... binary system /15-04-09
How Europeans evolved white skin ... modern Europeans don’t look much like those of 8000 years ago. ... By comparing key parts of the DNA /15-04-08
whether time really passes? ... Parmenides believed the universe is the set of all moments at once. The entire history of the universe simply is. ... We have to be a little careful about what we mean by “time does not exist.” ... Time might instead emerge to play an important role in the macroscopic world of our experience, even if it is nowhere to be found in the final Theory of Everything. /Sean Carroll /15-04-07
Amazon's 'Dash' Button ... designed for products that you buy repeatedly /15-04-07
„neo-Darwinian synthesis” .. grounded on chemistry, and thereby on physics … For biology. Like geology but unlike chemistry, there is another problem. Living things are what they are not only because of the principles of physics, but also because of a vast number of historical accidents … “emergence” .. But it does not apply to everything .. we must have reference to deeper, more truly fundamental, principles of physics. … We do not know how long science will continue on this reductive path. … Steven Weinberg To Explain the World /15-04-06
Dark matter is the simplest solution to the complex observations. ... Nothing would be something, but so far nothing—nothing has been seen. ... Weakly Interacting Massive Particle or WIMP. ... neutralino which is the supersymmetry partner of the neutrino. ... We will never grasp dark matter in our hands no matter how long we wait. /15-03-30
The Renaissance vision of Jerome (c. 347-420 AD), as depicted by Albrecht Dürer in a world-famous engraving of 1514, seems to represent an ideal type of the scholar: secluded in the desert, far removed from the bustle of ordinary life (with a lion to prove it), well-established in his institution (as shown by the cardinal’s hat), and devoted to his studies. /15-03-28
But if one thinks a priori that theism is extremely improbable, then the historical evidence for the Resurrection would be discounted and not lead to a high posterior probability for theism. /15-03-27
The world is going to university ... The modern research university, a marriage of the Oxbridge college and the German research institute, was invented in America ... well-funded institutions at the top and poorer ones at the bottom. ... The world is moving in the American direction. ... 19 of the 20 universities in the world that produced the most highly cited research papers were American. But on the educational side, the picture is less clear. ... university education is too complex to be measured ... testing 22-year-olds is harder than testing 12-year-olds. ... universities should be able to show that they have taught their students to think critically. /15-03-26
origin-of-life ... The crash of meteors on early Earth likely generated hydrogen cyanide, which could have kick-started the production of biomolecules needed to make the first cells. ... In order for life to have gotten started, there must have been a genetic molecule—something like DNA or RNA—capable of passing along blueprints for making proteins, the workhorse molecules of life. ... HCN .. H2S.. and ultraviolet (UV) light. /15-03-20
wystarczy choćby wspomnieć kompletnie bezsensowne Krajowe Ramy Kwalifikacji - Andrzej Białas, Prezes PAU do Krzysztofa Kwiatkowskiego, Prezesa NIK /15-03-19
Robots ... programming, too, will be outsourced to machines ... While these machines cannot think, per se, ... What is a social robot? .. “it’s a robot with a little humanity.” ... systems that can learn or acquire values at run-time. /15-03-18
Robot Painting /15-03-18
Where in your brain do you exist? ... does that awareness come from a broad network of neural activity? ... Focal theories contend there are specific areas of the brain that are critical for generating consciousness, while global theories argue consciousness arises from large-scale brain changes in activity. ... Consciousness appears to break down the modularity ... consciousness is likely a product of this widespread communication ... no one part of the brain is truly the seat of the soul /15-03-16
DNA editing of human embryos ... Experts call for halt in research to work out safety and ethics issues. ... Known as germline modification, edits to embryos, eggs or sperm are of particular concern because a person created using such cells would have had their genetic make-up changed without consent, and would permanently pass down that change to future generations. ... in China, for example, is currently seeking permission ... There are already a lot of dodgy fertility clinics around the world /15-03-13
Zbigniew Rybczyński, Tango, 1981 /15-03-09
From computational complexity to quantum mechanics. ... the no-cloning theorem. ... Quantum information is more like traditional economic commodities, like gold or oil or something. ... P=NP .. Can every efficiently checkable problem also be efficiently solved? /Scott Aaronson /15-03-02
The smartphone is the defining technology of the age ... It encourages renting over buying, trying out over tying yourself down, co-ordinating things on the fly rather than in advance. ... the devices really do bring people closer together. .. by ensuring that there is always someone to play a game with, ... People will live in perpetual contact both with each other and with the computational power of the cloud. ... planetary brain, telepathically shared by all. /15-02-27
Financial traders are in a race to make transactions ever faster. ... Through glass optical fibres, information travels at two-thirds of the speed of light in a vacuum ... hollow-core fibre cables ... a ship or other trading platform near halfway points between pairs of financial centres worldwide ... there may be an optimal speed for trading that today's markets have already far surpassed. /15-02-24
How to Live Forever ... It’s theoretically possible to copy the brain onto a computer, and so provide a form of life after death, Stephen Hawking said last year. Ray Kurzweil, ... 2045 Initiative ... What if what’s created, even if it has a copy of your brain, just isn’t you? ... if a copy thinks it is you, ... we lose consciousness every night ... if you think that our sense of self is illusory. ... when consciousness arises, namely from massive complexity and linkages between different parts of the brain. ... Meaningful thought arises only for the whole animal dynamically engaged with its environment ... The idea would be to encourage the brain’s activities to slowly begin migrating to a massively interconnected electronic brain. /15-02-23
Acoustical paradise. ... to design a more conversation-friendly setting. ... Each table is in its own sonic zone, ... A mirage of the Musikverein can arise almost anywhere, with a few swipes on a screen. The simulation may fall short of perfection, but it trains the ears to yearn for the ideal. /15-02-16
Intellectual problems from antiquity are being illuminated by insights from the sciences of mind, brain, genes, and evolution. ... and worst of all, something called “scientism.” ... the defining practices of science, including open debate, peer review, and double-blind methods, ... The first is that the world is intelligible. ... acquisition of knowledge is hard. ... partition plan proposed by Stephen Jay Gould .. “non-overlapping magisteria.” Science gets the empirical universe; religion gets the questions of moral meaning and value. ... We know, but our ancestors did not, that humans belong to a single species of African primate that developed agriculture, government, and writing late in its history. ... We know that our intuitions about space, time, matter, and causation are incommensurable with the nature of reality on scales that are very large and very small. .... The humanities would enjoy more of the explanatory depth of the sciences, ... urely our conceptions of politics, culture, and morality have much to learn from our best understanding of the physical universe and of our makeup as a species. ... /Steven Pinker /15-02-16
Claude Shannon .. What he showed is you can communicate reliably even though the communication medium is unreliable; that's what digital means. ... this threshold property, this exponential scaling. ... We have digital communication .. digital computation .. digital fabrication. ... 3D printing isn't a revolution; it's decades old. ... playing with Lego bricks and compare it to a state-of-the-art 3D printer. ... a child can make a Lego structure bigger than themself. The same way in the ribosome ... when you replicate DNA there's an extra step of error correction .. is the exponential. ... digitizing fabrication, coding construction. ... collaboration with the Venter Institute ... amino acids .. With those twenty properties you can make you. ... digitizing fabrication in the deep sense means that with about twenty building blocks ... /Edge /Neil Gershenfeld /15-02-10
emotional memories ... She could say with absolute certainty that that’s precisely how it happened. Except, it turns out, none of what she remembered was accurate. For now, juries tend to trust the confident witness: she knows what she saw. But that may be changing. ... the amygdala, in a sense, tell our eyes to pay closer attention ... the amygdala may also signal to the hippocampus that it needs to pay special attention to encoding this particular moment. ... The goal of memory isn’t to keep the details. It’s to be able to generalize from what you know so that you are more confident in acting on it. ... Konnikova, Phelps /15-02-10
only about 14 percent of English speaking professional philosophers are theists. ... National Academy of Sciences, composed of the most prestigious scientists in the world, show that religious belief among them is practically nonexistent, about 7 percent. ... because of the rise of modern science ... a biological component to religious beliefs ... religion is an adaptation that provides an evolutionary advantage. ... The other explanation claims that religious beliefs and practices arose as byproducts ... strong correlation between religious belief and various measures of social dysfunction ... In general, people don’t want to know; they want to believe. ... Why, then, do some highly educated people believe religious claims? .. for emotional reasons ... Studies also show that religious belief declines among those with higher IQs. ... Among the intelligentsia it is common and widespread to find individuals who lost childhood religious beliefs as their education in philosophy and the sciences advanced. By contrast, it is almost unheard of to find disbelievers in youth who came to belief as their education progressed. ... human beings need their childhood to end /15-02-06
mitochondrial replacement or three-person in vitro fertilization aims to prevent women passing on harmful mutations in their mitochondria /15-02-03
Hubble, NASA Sharpest ever view of the Andromeda Galaxy /15-02-02
The world is everything that is the case. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1922 /15-01-29
posthumanism signals the end of a certain way of .. orienting—selfhood ... Marvin Minsky argues that robots will be the next evolutionary phase ... machines gaining consciousness and then guiding themselves (and, presumably, us) ... in Lyotard’s words, “what is proper to humankind is its absence of defining property, its nothingness, ... whether there is a humanism that posthumanism can come after. ... “the end of the human,” brought on by neuromedicine, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence, ... medieval saints’ relics that defy the life/death binary if not proto-cyborgs? ... “there is no side for nonlife” ... return of either old or new forms of domination. ... techno-apocalypse and/or -utopia /15-01-29
Sean Carroll: Death and Physics /15-01-27
‘unconscious-thought advantage’ (UTA) has been controversial. ... how clever our unconscious is /15-01-27
The Hard Problem of Consciousness ... why on earth should all those complicated brain processes feel like anything from the inside? ... something as mysterious as the experience of being ... the problem marks the boundary not just of what we currently know, but of what science could ever explain. ... to accept the profoundly unsettling conclusion that computers or the internet might soon become conscious, too. ... OK, here, God has intervened. God created souls, and put them into people. ... he thought it wasn’t impossible that his iPhone might have feelings. ... that evolution could have produced zombies instead of conscious creatures – and it didn’t! ... what if we’re just constitutionally incapable of ever solving the Hard Problem? ... where neuroscience meets philosophy /15-01-26
new scientism ... Are scientists recruited from a section of humankind that is already better than the norm? ... Is there something scientists know that, ... would make the rest of us better? ... the scientific method ... whom to trust and what to believe ... [Weber] And if there is such a thing as the meaning of the world, there is no scientific way to discover it. ... the fact-value distinction ... [1940s] there is no “satisfactory evidence” that scientists are “recruited from the ranks of those who exhibit an unusual degree of moral integrity.” ... 1960s, Thomas Kuhn’s picture of “normal science” ... [Post–World War II ] Science’s goals were increasingly identified as their goals; its ways of doing things, their ways. ... Morality cannot be outsourced. ... So-called evolutionary ethics bid to give a scientific solution to such questions as “What ought we to do?” and “What is moral?” ... In the modern American academy and in intellectual publishing, scientism, and specifically the redefinition of moral problems as scientific problems, is resurgent. ... traditional moral authorities are naked ... Science, it is now claimed, will show us what is good ... Morality, neuroscientist Sam Harris writes, “should be considered an undeveloped branch of science,” ... The cognitive scientist Steven Pinker ... The worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science. ... religion is a “God delusion,” licensing prejudice, servility, and slaughter, all of which are morally wrong. ... So the cost of modern skepticism about scientific virtue is paid not just by scientists but by all of us. ... if the global climate is indeed warming ... We need to trust scientists, but we need scientists to be trustworthy. /15-01-25
Random Chance’s Role in Cancer ... Unlike Ebola, flu or polio, cancer is a disease that arises from within — a consequence of the mutations that inevitably occur when one of our 50 trillion cells divides and copies its DNA. ... purely by chance — random, spontaneous ... our revulsion to randomness ... It takes several mutations, in specific combinations, for a cell to erupt into a malignant tumor. The idea that random copying errors are prominent among them is thoroughly mainstream. ... bad luck and see how it compares with the two other corners of the cancer triangle: environment and heredity ... 40 percent of cancers are preventable /15-01-20
Ian Bostridge on singing Schubert’s Winterreise - an indispensable work of art /15-01-20
Roz Chast: Can't we talk about something more pleasant? ... the technology to keep us alive a lot longer after we are stricken ... prolong life without considering sufficiently whether what is being prolonged is really worth living from the perspective of the person who has to live it. ... Dignitas, the Swiss organization that helps terminally ill people to die in circumstances of their own choosing. ... they avoid a short period of pointless pain and humiliation, /15-01-19
Children have come to be seen as more valuable than adults not despite but because of their psychological immaturity ... the life of a human achieves its peak value at birth and declines thereafter. ... We are the victims of a collective confusion. ... Maybe it has to do with religious concepts of sin ... In any case the result is eminently absurd. ... The death of an adult person is a tragedy because a sophisticated unique consciousness has been lost; ... Adults live fuller, deeper, and more real lives than those who have yet to grow up. /15-01-19
What to do with my dead body ... I don't really care. I'll be done with it, ... I could donate my body to medical science, ... few who will ever remember that I once lived. ... Put the ashes on the sill, open the window, and turn on the fan! ... scientistic metaphysics with which most of us content ourselves tells us only that dead bodies are biomedical waste. ... a reductio ad absurdum of our metaphysics. But what is the alternative? A richer worldview? And from what quarter shall we expect that? /15-01-19
René Descartes ... Charlie Hebdo /15-01-14
Inevitability of Evolution ... In particular, there’s a fair chance of hitting on sequences that can replicate ... These ideas suggest that evolvability and openness to innovation are features not just of life but of information itself. ... do not necessarily reflect any adaptive fine-tuning. The apparent creativity and artistry of such forms has astonished biologists and inspired artists. Now it seems we can understand where this diversity and inventiveness comes from. ... The more complex they are, the more rewiring they tolerate, ... creativity or innovability, is a fundamental feature of complex networks ... evolvability and openness to innovation are features not just of life but of information itself. ... appearance of life was not a fantastic fluke but almost a mathematical inevitability. /15-01-14
poker ... An 'essentially unbeatable' algorithm for the popular card game ... incapable of losing against any opponent in a fair game ... This is a step beyond a computer program that can beat top human players, ... There are 3.16 × 1017 states ... the computer learned to inject a certain dose of bluffing into its plays. /15-01-12
a world without work ... jobs are boring, low-paid, humiliating and increasingly scarce. ... there was a religious element, in the sense that work gives you something that nothing else does, which is that you became part of something bigger than yourself. ... becoming a worker in a sense is repaid by society, with the fact that you are in. ... to associate themselves with the community that produces things. ... for Christian religion work is one of the first punishments that God inflicts on people. ... A big problem at the moment is income inequality. ... So you are not taught to become a worker, you are taught to become a person. /15-01-08
Stanisław Barańczak’s “This Is Not a Conversation for the Telephone” /15-01-08
Modern biology challenges conventional understandings of autonomy, surveillance and privacy. In short, advances in DNA science have surely placed us in some kind of brave new world ... 23andMe ... your genes are your essential, true identity. ... winning the timeless war against illness, senescence and death. ... hereditary improvement he called “eugenics,” meaning “well-born.” ... our genome isn’t ours alone: studies of the “microbiome” ... “genetic” no longer necessarily means “innate.” ... The evidence from the labs, strongly refutes genetic essentialism. ... genetic identity becomes a social construct rather than a scientific fact. ... a legion of highly profitable nonprofit universities and medical schools ... 23andMe offered both a genealogical and a health profile ... while demographic information such as age, gender and location was worth only $0.00005 per person, health information, such as specific diseases or drug prescriptions a person was taking was worth $0.26 ... Computing and genomics are rapidly merging into a single family ... Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe’s CEO, married Google cofounder Sergey Brin ... “biological citizenship”—communities based on health status, rather than on traditional qualities such as labor or nationality. ... iPhone and Android phones can monitor and aggregate your vital signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure. ... Maybe on iPhone 11 Siri will know your genome. “Given your tendency toward congestive heart failure, I’ve canceled your cable subscription, signed you up for a six-week aerobics class on Thursday nights, and switched your pizza order to a salad.” /15-01-07
God has been through a very rough patch over the last 500 years. Once the Creator and Ruler of the universe, He fell into a long and precipitous decline with the advent of modernity. ... Diderot ... Voltaire ... Marx and Bakunin ... Nietzsche ... “new atheism” of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens. ... He thrives in the sanctuaries of private belief, religious communities, ... in theology and religious studies departments. ... He flourishes in suburban evangelical churches everywhere in North America; offers dignity and hope to the planet of slums in Kinshasa ... Pope Francis enlists Him to scourge the demons of neoliberal capitalism. ... atheism itself has proven to be “not as easy as it looks.” ... all the replacements for God have proved abortive, ... (God and the universe, he notes astutely, do not add up to two.) God is neither the metaphysical industrialist imagined by creationists, nor a claimant to ownership of the universe. ... In the coming age of political and ecological crisis, we may have no other choice but to embrace the vulnerability that comes with the eschewal of possession and domination. We may discover, contrary to the fraudulent realists, that the meek will inherit the earth. /15-01-03
artificial intelligence systems relieve us of the need to think ... making life easier for ourselves at the cost of replacing our experience of the world with something inferior. /15-01-03
2014 in science This year may be best remembered for how quickly scientific triumph morphed into disappointment, and even tragedy: breakthroughs in stem-cell research and cosmology were quickly discredited; commercial spaceflight faced major setbacks. Yet landing a probe on a comet, tracing humanity’s origins and a concerted push to understand the brain provided reasons to celebrate. ... Martian surface: Curiosity finally reached the mountain that it has been heading towards since landing in 2012 ... The search for planets beyond the Solar System also got a huge boost. ... 715 extrasolar planets ... ‘Earth twin’ ... Neanderthals ... DNA survives in non-African human genomes, thanks to ancient interbreeding, and two teams this year catalogued humans’ Neanderthal heritage. ... men who lived in southwest Siberia 45,000 years ago ... humans and Neanderthals coexisted there for much longer ... Graphene ... — the world’s thinnest and strongest — allows protons to pass through it. This suggests new applications in hydrogen fuel cells, or perhaps a membrane that can collect hydrogen from air. ... advances in nanotechnology and computing have helped to drive the emergence of ambitious projects to understand the brain. ... 2014 is likely to rank as the hottest since modern records began about 140 years ago ... Birth of first genetically engineered monkeys ... World's first commercial coal-fired power plant that capture its carbon-dioxide emission /15-01-01
Freelance workers available at a moment’s notice will reshape the nature of companies and the structure of careers ... “the Uber of X” ... The idea that having a good job means being an employee of a particular company is a legacy of a period that stretched from about 1880 to 1980. ... Everyone a corporation ... At the same time, governments will have to rethink institutions that were designed in an era when contract employers were a rarity. /14-12-30
The truth about free will: Does it actually exist? ... philosophers love to talk about in the free will debates were irrelevant to anything important. ... ‘Should you regret, or would you regret not having free will?’ /14-12-28
For big enough numbers x, Rankin showed, the largest prime gap below X is at least
Scientific method: Defend the integrity of physics ... change in how theoretical physics is done. ... if a theory is sufficiently elegant and explanatory, it need not be tested experimentally, ... Karl Popper argued: a theory must be falsifiable to be scientific. ... theoretical physics risks becoming a no-man's-land between mathematics, physics and philosophy ... the drastic step that they are advocating needs careful debate ... damage to public confidence in science ... String theory ... Many multiverses ... Hugh Everett ... although infinity is needed to complete mathematics, it occurs nowhere in the physical Universe. ... post-empirical science is an oxymoron ... how science should be done ... pseudoscientists ... A conference should be convened next year to take the first steps. People from both sides of the testability debate must be involved. ... The imprimatur of science should be awarded only to a theory that is testable. Only then can we defend science from attack. /14-12-22
Many-Interacting-Worlds Approach to Quantum Mechanics ... graduate student in the philosophy department ..., and like many philosophers of physics, knows the technical background behind relativity and quantum mechanics very well. /14-12-19
Incredible time-lapse video showing storms and mesocylcones /14-12-17
Americans aren’t so confident in their creationism. Most Americans do believe God created us. But the harder you press about historical claims in the Bible, the less confident people are. The percentage who stand by young-Earth creationism dwindles all the way to 15 percent. /14-12-11
Stem cells: The black box of reprogramming ... The one thing that we know is that it's not magic, there is a mechanism. /14-12-11
mass extinction ... between 500 and 36,000 species might be disappearing each year. ... disappearing at rate of 0.72% per year (the upper end of estimates), a sixth mass extinction could happen by the year 2200. At the low end of the estimated range, a mass extinction would not happen for thousands of years. /14-12-11
“time’s arrow” ... is an emergent property of thermodynamics ... highly ordered states into random, useless configurations ... inflation’s extreme flexibility and explanatory power are both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. ... the entropy being low at the beginning of the universe should just be added as a new law of physics. ... gravity, rather than thermodynamics, that draws the bowstring to let time’s arrow fly. ... the universe has an unlimited capacity for entropy. ... we’re just investigating a new aspect of Newton’s gravitation ... the ancient Greek dream of order out of chaos. /14-12-10
... to float, ... over Antarctica’s ice, in order to record radio waves generated by neutrinos passing through the ice ... Cherenkov-radiation ... ANITA III ... about 40 bursts a day ... If Hawking radiation exists /14-12-09
The Collected Papers Of Albert Einstein /14-12-09
1984 It is now 65 years since George Orwell died, and he has never been bigger. His phrases are on our lips, his ideas are in our heads, his warnings have come true. How did this happen? /14-12-09
The Shrinking World of Ideas Marxism, Freudianism, alienation, symbolism, modernism, existentialism, nihilism, deconstruction, and postcolonialism ... Unless I am very much mistaken, the last philosopher to exert wide-ranging influence was Wittgenstein. ... Foucault concluded that man is nothing more than an Enlightenment invention ... all schools of thought become in the end variant expressions of the mind’s tendencies ... Ironically, the last great surge of ideas in the humanities was essentially antihumanist. ... what the postmodernists indirectly accomplished was to open the humanities to the sciences, particularly neuroscience. ... Our preferences, behaviors, tropes, and thoughts—the very stuff of consciousness—are byproducts of the brain’s activity. And once we map the electrochemical impulses that shoot between our neurons, we should be able to understand—well, everything. So every discipline becomes implicitly a neurodiscipline, including ethics, aesthetics, musicology, theology, literature, whatever. ... all behavior is mechanical ... "emerging research in the brain sciences has set into motion fundamental questions relating to social, political, aesthetic, and scientific discoveries." ... Roger Penrose ... The not-so-wonderful irony of the postmodern program ... the mind might one day fathom the human condition. /14-12-01
Adam Gopnik And that pseudo-scientific argument—that an embryo is a person because it contains the DNA of a potential person—is true of any human cell, and certainly true of the countless fertilized eggs that, in the natural course of reproduction, are destroyed before they can develop. /14-12-01
New materials may change the way temperatures are regulated ... has made a material which reflects 97% of sunlight while itself radiating at a wavelength of between eight and 13 microns, which is where the atmosphere is most transparent. /14-11-28
Resolutions of 0.1 Å — the goal set by physicist Richard Feynman in 1959 ... Exceeding atomic resolution is crucial for understanding important classes of materials. /14-11-27
Our Cats, Ourselves ... domestic dog date from more than 30,000 years ago. But domestic cats ... about 9,500 years ago. This difference fits our intuition about their comparative degrees of domestication ... Wolves beat dogs in general intelligence tests. ... Konrad Lorenz once suggested that humans were subject to the same dynamics of domestication. Our brain and body sizes peaked during the end of the last ice age, and declined with the spread of agriculture. /14-11-27
The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew, by Alan Lightman ... the conflict between our human desire for permanence and the impermanence of nature; the possibility that our universe is simply an accident; ... our resistance to the view that our bodies and minds can be explained by scientific logic and laws. ... what we see and understand of the world is only a tiny piece of the extraordinary, perhaps unfathomable whole. /14-11-27
Age of Quantum Biology ... In 1989 Roger Penrose, an Oxford mathematician, proposed a quantum mechanism for consciousness that was met with deep scepticism. Yet Messrs Al-Khalili and McFadden go on to revise Mr Penrose’s theory in light of more recent experiments. Where doubt remains, work continues. /14-11-26
Roz Chast /14-11-25
A Worm's Mind In A Lego Body ... (C. elegans) is tiny and only has 302 neurons. These have been completely mapped ... the connectome and implemented an object oriented neuron program ... sensors and effectors provided by a simple LEGO robot /14-11-18
... the essence of good science writing is not the sharing of particular ideas, but the sharing of general approaches to perceiving the world. Psychologists use the term metacognition to label how we think about our thoughts, and a truly great popular science book changes how we approach the business of thinking, rather than the specific things we think about. ... how you approach the task of consuming information ... you perceive the same people, places, objects, ideas and concepts through a more sophisticated lens /14-11-18
For optimal system performance, update your Bible as often as possible. VERSION 1.0: Original release. Heavens, Earth, formless void. ... VERSION 2.3 New “Rosary” feature allows user to bypass help toolbar and speak directly with Mary. ... VERSION 5.0: Slavery-incompatible. For continuing access to slavery, use previous versions of Bible. ... VERSION 6.5 “Black people” now known as “people.” ... 6.11 “Gay Marriage” expansion pack (available in certain areas). 6.12 “God” feature removed entirely. Replaced with “The Cloud.” /14-11-17
Do you have any idea how fast you were evolving? /14-11-17
The human brain contains roughly 86 billion neurons and trillions, perhaps hundreds of trillions, of intricate interconnections among those neurons. And exactly zero convincing theories of how it all works. ... neuroscience needs more data ... fine-grained details, like the exact locations of neural synapses on the recipient cell bodies, can be critical. ... Big data alone aren’t enough. ... missing ingredient is theory. ... cognition is modeled as a series of "production rules" that use our memories to generate our physical and mental actions. ... Neuroscience needs to welcome mathematicians, engineers, computer scientists, cognitive psychologists, and anthropologists into the fold. /14-11-17
Physicists are searching for evidence of an ancient collision with another universe. /14-11-13
... ghost, angel or otherworldly being ... neuroscientists have figured out how to conjure those spirits—or at least the perception of them—in the lab. /14-11-13
Humans have innate grasp of probability Children are born with a sense of number, and the roots of our mathematical abilities seem to exist in monkeys, chickens and even salamanders. But evidence has suggested that the ability to assess the chances of a future event is not as innate. /14-11-05
whether our universe is statistically typical among the infinite variety of universes. ... our universe as one of countless bubbles in an eternally frothing sea. ... A peculiar, life-friendly bubble is all we could expect to observe. ... infinity sabotages statistical analysis. ... the two-headed-cow question demands an answer. ... life-engendering elements like carbon could not arise. Thus, a universe with much heavier Higgs particles could never be observed. ... depended on how the scientists defined time in the first place. ... an immortal watcher who soars through the multiverse counting events, such as the number of observers. ... The most entropy is produced, and therefore the most observers exist, when universes contain equal parts vacuum energy and matter. /14-11-05
Radical theory ... A quantum world arising from many ordinary ones ... It is a fundamental shift from previous quantum interpretations ... ‘many worlds’ approach, pioneered by the US theorist Hugh Everett III in the 1950s, relies on the worlds branching out independently from one another, and not interacting at all ... By contrast, ... 'many interacting worlds' approach. /14-10-25
Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming Genetic engineering will one day create the smartest humans who have ever lived. ... The genetic study of cognitive ability suggests that there exist today variations in human DNA which, if combined in an ideal fashion, could lead to individuals with intelligence that is qualitatively higher ... we should add super-geniuses to mammoths on the list of wonders to be produced in the new genomic age. ... The corresponding ethical issues are complex ... the rich and powerful will be the first beneficiaries. ... inequality of a kind never before experienced in human history. /14-10-22
Brain on Metaphors ... as anti-Platonic as it’s possible to get. It undermines the argument that human minds can reveal transcendent truths about reality in transparent language. /14-10-16
Universities must modify ... Whatever a university looks like today, it seems certain that the universities of 2030 will look very different. ... First, universities are educating more people. ... The second shift is out of the ivory tower. ... The newest challenge is a reassessment of how learning and innovation happen, and how they should be delivered. ... the very foundations of the centuries-old university concept are under attack as never before. /14-10-16
Hatsune Miku Live Party 2013 in Kansai /14-10-10
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) ... student may have thought he’d understood it at the time, and perhaps he did, but he’d never practiced using the concept to truly internalize it. ... The problem with focusing relentlessly on understanding is that math and science students can often grasp essentials of an important idea, but this understanding can quickly slip away without consolidation through practice and repetition. Worse, students often believe they understand something when, in fact, they don’t. By championing the importance of understanding, teachers can inadvertently set their students up for failure as those students blunder in illusions of competence. ... interesting connection between learning math and science, and learning a sport. /14-10-09
The Man with the Beautiful Eyes vimeo /14-10-09
Lady Luck ... randomness is a major component of reality ... a random event is often described as meaningless, and therefore only a source of inconvenience or tragedy. ... Perhaps the freedom of the will can be found in randomness? Some neuroscientists seems to think so. ... And perhaps having a will requires throwing a little randomness into the mix. ... Randomness is whatever is left over when we have listed all the known patterns in the universe. ... your self is an illusion. /14-10-06
Without hesitation, Desimone replied that the mystery of consciousness was overrated. As we learn more about the detailed mechanisms in the brain, the question of ‘What is consciousness?’ will fade away into irrelevancy and abstraction,” he said. /14-10-03
God, Darwin ... Gould Noma God might well have used evolution by natural selection to produce his creation. ... no literally supernatural trait has ever been found in Homo sapiens; we are perfectly good animals, ... human beings, are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, /14-10-01
Steven Pinker The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century /14-09-27
Digital technology is remaking the cognitive environment in which human brains develop and function. ... Our networked age often confounds the human mind, ... not simply resisting or embracing new media technologies, but becoming instead more self-aware and discerning in relation to them. /14-09-24
Predictable Behaviour of People Who Are Trying to Act Randomly. "How to Outguess the Lottery", which is really just about how to choose more random sets of numbers than other players so that you won't have to share the jackpot in the unlikely event that you win ... is randomness somehow built into the universe? /14-09-19
References, Please ... In the age of the Internet, do we really need footnotes to reference quotations we have made in the text? ... There is so much inertia in the academic world ... Simply, it’s time to admit that the Internet has changed the way we do scholarship ... There is, in short, an absolutely false, energy-consuming, nit-picking attachment to an outdated procedure that now has much more to do with the sad psychology of academe than with the need to guarantee that the research is serious. /14-09-19
Does life play dice? ... What could be more irresistible than the idea that two of the most mysterious subjects in science – quantum physics and life – are connected? Indeed, you get the third big mystery – consciousness ... Has evolution selected for quantum effects, or is their occurrence accidental? ... biology exploits quantum physics, we need to ask if its occurrence is enhanced by adaptation. /14-09-11
Does Anyone Want a Smartwatch? /14-09-11
A few weeks into every semester, I face a lecture hall that is half-empty, despite the fact that I am repeatedly voted a Harvard Yearbook Favorite Professor, that the lectures are not video-recorded, and that they are the only source of certain material that will be on the exam. I don’t take it personally; it’s common knowledge that Harvard students stay away from lectures ... Obviously they’re not slackers; the reason is that they are crazy-busy. ... what could they be doing that is more important than learning in class? The answer is that they are consumed by the same kinds of extracurricular activities that got them here in the first place. Steven Pinker /14-09-09
There is even disagreement about what philosophy is about — or if it is about anything at all. ... philosophy as being concerned with the exploration of conceptual as distinct from empirical space (the sciences being focused on the latter) ... the very spectacle of scholars devoting a lot of time and effort to trying to define and defend their discipline is a sure sign that all is not well with the discipline in question. ... empirically and mathematically unconstrained approaches may need to be jettisoned? ... I remain very skeptical of the value of any metaphysically-oriented work which is disconnected from empirical science. /14-09-07
Anthropocene. The Human Age. The World Shaped by Us. ... “the menagerie of the body’s attendant microbes” is altering assumptions about the multispecies being that we habitually call the self. We hear about brain scientists measuring the evolutionary impact of the online life, not least on our Google-corroded memories. We hear how, as humans are precipitating the planet’s sixth extinction, we are also producing unheard-of synthetic “species.” ... In America, we call this the second Gilded Age. ... What a marvel we’ve become, a species with planetwide powers and breathtaking gifts. /14-09-07
Immanuel Kant's perspective on ethics might suggest to us a Categorical Internet Imperative: Click only on those links that you can at the same time will all your fellow citizens to click on. /14-09-04
Tipping is a peculiar institution. ... countries where tipping is more common also have higher rates of corruption. /14-09-04
Average Explorer. ... how to analyze the deluge of online photographs ... to transmit what you’re thinking to the computer brain./14-08-22
So, it’s crucial that those in the wealthiest One Percent keep the poor fractured by distracting them with emotional issues like immigration, abortion and gun control /14-08-20
... there is no such thing as a free market /14-07-21
A call for mental-health science Clinicians and neuroscientists must work together to understand and improve psychological treatments ... It is time to use science to advance the psychological, not just the pharmaceutical, treatment of those with mental-health problems. ... Interdisciplinary communication is a problem. /14-07-20
What is wisdom? When people are asked what they’d like in life they typically respond that they want to be happy. Wisdom, which we might think of as a remote and highfalutin concept, is not such a popular answer. ... Wisdom is not something that automatically comes with the passing years. ... /14-07-20
Art ... to science ... to fully articulate and understand turbulence we need to add the intuitive, contemplative perspective of art to the detailed analysis of science. ... Heisenberg: "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions. Why relativity?, And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." /14-07-17
World Cup /14-07-12
Is there such a thing as the self? Most of us, when we look in the mirror, have a sense that behind the eyes looking back at us is a me-ish thing: a self. But this, we are increasingly told, is an illusion. ... According to philosophers, there is no "Cartesian ego" unifying our consciousness, no unchanging core of identity that makes us the same person from day to day; there is only an ever-shifting bundle of thoughts, feelings and memories. ... The Self Illusion ... The Ego Trick ... "I am essentially my brain" view ... (unless you’re one of those benighted people who believe in immaterial souls) ... It is your stream of consciousness that matters, regardless of its contents. That’s what makes you you. ... Yet even the humble roundworm C elegans, with its paltry 302 neurons and 2,462 synaptic connections, has a single neuron devoted to distinguishing its body from the rest of the world. "I think it’s fair to say that C elegans has a very primitive self-representation" comments the philosopher-neuroscientist Patricia Churchland—indeed, she adds, "a self." ... If the spectrum of selfhood begins with the roundworm, surely it ends with Proust /14-07-12
We dislike being alone with our thoughts ... many people would rather give themselves mild electric shocks than sit idly in a room for 15 minutes ... the discomfort comes from a lack of mental control ... "the disengaged mind" /14-07-06
On Doing Nothing It’s ironic for me to write about all the learning I accomplished in my time off, when that time was supposed to be about accomplishing nothing at all. In this sense, my mission to accomplish nothing ended in failure. /14-07-03
Sean Carroll: Why the Many-Worlds Formulation of Quantum Mechanics Is Probably Correct ... you create new universes from your iPhone. (Seriously.) ... multiple worlds automatically occur in quantum mechanics. They are an inevitable part of the formalism. /14-07-02
Empty Ideas by Peter Unger ... how little has been accomplished, or even attempted, in the core of academic philosophy ... "concretely substantial" and "concretely empty" ... by contrast with science, philosophy should offer no substantial thoughts ... little more than the semantics of ordinary words /14-07-01
Alan Turing /14-06-27
Connectomes: -1- -2- -3- -4- -5- /14-06-26
Fifty years ago, John Bell made metaphysics testable, but quantum scientists still dispute the implications. ... reality is irreducibly random, ... what ‘causation’ means /14-06-24
Physicists Should Stop Saying Silly Things about Philosophy Sean Carroll /14-06-24
3 Quarks Daily: 2. Strange Quark, $200: Olga Tokarczuk, Everywhere and Nowhere (Bieguni) /14-06-23
we have a population explosion of ideas, but not enough brains to cover them - Daniel Dennett's response to the 2007 annual question /14-06-23
Philosophy is a Bunch of Empty Ideas. Even though Wittgeinstein is perhaps the most widely admired philosopher of the twentieth century, at least amongst mainstream philosophy, nobody really pays attention to his main conclusion: you can’t really do anything when you do this stuff, you should stop it. /14-06-17
... 'quantum entanglement' to surpass accuracy of any single atomic clock /14-06-17
Dinosaurs neither warm-blooded nor cold-blooded The fast metabolism of mammals and birds probably evolved over millions of years, mostly after the dinosaur mesotherms. /14-06-17
The Internet in Real-Time Battle of the Internet Giants /14-06-13 /14-06-13
The world is on the brink of a mass extinction. So current extinctions are about 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate. /14-06-13
Analytic-Continental Divide ... philosophical problems could be solved (or dissolved) by logically analyzing key terms ... traditional philosophy (especially metaphysics and ethics) as essentially meaningless. ... in particular, no room for religious belief ... there are no longer substantive philosophical differences between analytic and continental philosophy ... /14-06-13
"Learn to Code!" This imperative to program seems to be everywhere these days. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg recently donated ten million dollars ... all this coding reeducation might soon be unnecessary ... But before we reach the era of self-programming computers, three fundamental obstacles must be overcome. ... /14-06-11
But no existing program—not Watson, not Goostman, not Siri—can currently come close to doing what any bright, real teenager can do: watch an episode of "The Simpsons," and tell us when to laugh. /14-06-11
Eugene Goostman ... There’s nothing in this example to be impressed by /14-06-11
Steven Pinker, Writing In The 21st Century
You're casting your bread onto the waters, hoping that this invisible and unknowable audience will catch your drift.
... The first step to being a good writer is to be a good reader: to read a lot, and to savor and reverse-engineer good prose ...
But language has always been a grassroots, bottom-up phenomenon. ...
it's hard to imagine what it's like not to know something that you do know.
... biological phenomena were explained in part at the level of molecules, which were explained by chemistry, which was explained by physics. There's no reason that that this process of explanation can't continue. Biology gives us a grasp of the brain, and human nature is a product of the organization of the brain, and societies unfold as they do because they consist of brains interacting with other brains and negotiating arrangements to coordinate their behavior, and so on. Now I know that there is tremendous resistance to this idea, because it's confused with a boogeyman called reductionism ...
A program of unifying the arts and humanities with the psychological sciences and ultimately the biological sciences promises tremendous increases of depth of understanding for all the fields.
It's becoming increasingly clear over the decades and centuries that an understanding of science is central to our understanding of the deepest questions of who we are, where we came from, what matters. /14-06-11
Ban computers in the classroom? ... it came from someone teaching a programming class, where computers are absolutely integral to learning and teaching. ... the disconnected students performed better on a post-lecture quiz. ... The act of typing effectively turns the note-taker into a transcription zombie, while the imperfect recordings of the pencil-pusher reflect and excite a process of integration, creating more textured and effective modes of recall. ... union of twenty-first-century tools (computers, tablets, smartphones) with nineteenth-century modalities (lectures). /14-06-10
Eugene Goostman is an artificial intelligence chatterbot. ... Turing test pass /14-06-08
We've discovered an Earth-like planet ... /14-06-06
The novel is dead (this time it's for real). The seeming realists among the Gutenbergers say such things as: well, clearly, books are going to become a minority technology, but the beau livre will survive. /14-05-29
The black hole's interior is protected by an armour of computational complexity. ... either quantum mechanics or general relativity must be wrong ... computational complexity could give theorists a whole new way to unify the two branches of their science — using ideas based fundamentally on information /14-05-29
Will Stem Cell Burgers Go Mainstream? Instead of raising animals, researchers can use the animal’s stem cells and generate meat. /14-05-26
Maria Konnikova. I Don't Want to Be Right. ... Even when we think we’ve properly corrected a false belief, the original exposure often continues to influence our memory and thoughts. /14-05-25
Maria Konnikova. ... we love to hear about ourselves, and we love compliments ... “You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof.” /14-05-25
Slavoj Žižek, ... why our guilt about consumption is all-consuming ... We buy a product – an organic apple, say – because it represents the image of a healthy lifestyle. ... I buy my public persona by way of going to the restaurants visited by people I want to be associated with. ... we are prone to engage in a frantic obsessive activity, recycling old paper, buying organic food, whatever, just so that we can be sure that we are doing something, making our contribution – like a soccer fan who supports his team in front of a TV screen at home, shouting and jumping from his seat, in a superstitious belief that this will somehow influence the outcome … /14-05-23
Quantum cryptography exploits the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics to provide a secure way to exchange private information. ... The sender encodes a bit sequence onto non-orthogonal quantum states and the receiver randomly dictates how a single bit should be calculated from the sequence. /14-05-21
... three-person in vitro fertilization (IVF) — involve transferring nuclear genetic material from the egg of a woman with mutant mitochondria into another woman's healthy egg /14-05-21
The arms of octopus recognize the rest of the body as self ... even though an octopus does not always know what its arms are doing /14-05-16
Charles Simic: Age of Ignorance Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. [USA] ... What we have in this country is the rebellion of dull minds against the intellect. /14-05-16
Should Robot Cars Be Programmed To Kill You If It Will Save More Lives? /14-05-15
Swedenborg devoted his life to physics, astronomy, and geology. ... took up neuroanatomy. ... But in 1743 he began to fall into mystical trances. ... The answer may be epilepsy. ... Joan of Arc, Saint Paul, and others also transcended their epilepsy. /14-05-15
The Second Law tells us that the universe is winding down to a state of maximum uselessness. /14-05-07
Bertrand Russel: Probability is the most important concept in modern science, especially as nobody has the slightest notion what it means /14-05-06
Is the Universe an Accident? Alan Lightman /14-04-26
... story of time’s arrow begins with the quantum mechanical idea that, deep down, nature is inherently uncertain. /14-04-26
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality. ... or it become the worst of all worlds? /14-04-25
The second Earth /14-04-24
But there's also another factor preventing us from achieving a more leisured and balanced lifestyle, and that is the intensely competitive social environment in which we live. /14-04-14
... the first-ever indirect detection of the particles that make dark matter /14-04-09
Bacterial tricks for turning plants into zombies. ... the bacteria control both plant and insect at the same time with the same protein /14-04-09
Can we return back to the old picture of a single universe? Andrei Linde, Edge /14-04-09
Eurozine: Jaroslaw Kuisz, Karolina Wigura. Poland's gender dispute. What does it say about Polish society? /14-04-05
The theism-atheism-agnosticism trio presumes that the real question is whether God exists. I’m suggesting that the real question is otherwise ... . ... what’s your response to suggestions that such experiences have some sort of entirely human psychological explanation? /14-04-03
Microbes could have caused mass extinction ... until they captured two acetate-processing genes from a bacterium. By comparing the genomes of 50 different living organisms, Fournier dated that gene transfer to 250 million years ago, right around the time of the mass extinction. /14-04-01
Uniwersytet ..., Prof. Piotr Sztompka /14-03-28
“What if there were billions and billions of universes?” ... it’s nature, not us, that decides what’s natural. /14-03-26
The Self - just another information-processing complex system. Sean Carroll /14-03-25
Gravitational-wave finding causes 'spring cleaning' in physics. ... the findings would agree remarkably well with 'chaotic inflation', ... inflation never completely ends, stopping only in limited pockets of space, while continuing with its exponential expansion elsewhere. Chaotic inflation would produce not just our Universe but a multiverse containing many pocket universes, each with its own laws of physics, an idea that critics say would be untestable. /14-03-25
By abandoning the free willing self, we are forced to re-examine the factors that are really behind our thoughts and behavior and the way they interact, balance, over-ride and cancel out. Only then we will begin to make progress in understanding how we really operate. (search for: Bruce Hood) /14-03-19
Is there a level of inequality that optimizes economic growth, stability, and shared prosperity? My answer is yes The relation between inequality and economic outcomes follows an inverted-U shape, so that increases in inequality improve economic performance up to the optimum and then reduce it /14-03-06
Scientific research must take gender into account /14-03-06
When mathematicians describe equations as beautiful, they are not lying Brain scans show /14-03-06
Pyłek leszczyny /14-02-23
Redistribution, Inequality, and Growth /14-02-27
The peer-review process has been completely revised by Frontiers /14-02-25
Is the Universe a Simulation?
The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew
The Sixth Extinction An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert Al Gore: the unparalleled surge in human population the development of powerful new technologies that magnify the per capita impact short-term thinking and ignores the true long-term cost
An argument can also be made that mathematical ideas are objective and exist idependently from the human mind Yet Tegmark's take is quite different from Platonism Math is so effective in describing the world because physical reality is a mathematical structure He calls it the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis appears to contradict Gödel incompleteness theorem, Computable Universe Hypothesis rules out all structures that contain infinity! infinitely many parallel universes out there Our Mathematical Universe, by Max Tegmark
There is presumably a calendar date—a moment—when the onus of proof passed from the atheist to the believer, A critic at large: Bigger than Phil by Adam Gopnik
First monkeys with customized mutations born in China to genetically modify primates
There is now an overwhelming body of evidence, that the 1 °C or so of global warming since the mid-nineteenth century is the result of human activity
Renesansowy inżynier XXI wieku
A New Physics Theory of Life
As many of the mathematicians pointed out, a lack of human intuition regarding the concept of infinity
The Current High School Science Curriculum For decades, during their four years in high school almost all Americans have taken at least a year-long course in each of the following subjects: biology, chemistry, and physics, in addition to several years of mathematics Yet, we are all familiar with the frequent surveys which repeatedly show dismaying levels of innumeracy and scientific illiteracy in American adults as well as a shocking and depressing prevalence of anti-scientific beliefs in rubbish ranging from crystal healing to astrology to homeopathy to anti-vaccination skullduggery to young-Earth tomfoolery to mind-boggling conspiracy theories of every sort Why?