“Sure, when we stop and think about it, we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like … Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now?” Rather the opposite, says Donald Hoffman: humans evolved as we did because our brains couldn’t process the world as it is (or not all of it).
It’s certainly possible: inventors have been working on ways to add aromas to telecommunications for 25 years or so. Yet the products have never caught on with the public. One part of the problem is “olfactory illiteracy”; another is for inventors to understand why and how users would use scents to communicate.
“Most of us are the products of people who survived in what was for a very, very long time, in our evolution as a species, a scarcity-oriented universe. … So we do have a very hard-wired tendency to be scarcity-oriented. … It is now being shown in quite a lot of studies that you actually perform better if you don’t put yourself under the scarcity mindset, if you don’t worry about the outcomes and enjoy the process of doing something, rather than the goal.”
Results of a meta-analysis of 124 studies on the purported benefits of mindfulness practice “show that many of these studies contained sample sizes that are too small to provide meaningful results – and they suggest that studies on mindfulness that have turned out negative results may have not been published.”
Dominic Frisby explains blockchain technology – and argues that it will likely revolutionize not only cash purchases, but also document authentication, land title and ownership, contract law, and even elections.
“Today’s physicists rarely debate what time is and why we experience it the way we do, remembering the past but never the future. Instead, researchers build ever-more accurate clocks. The current record-holder, at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics in Colorado, measures the vibration of strontium atoms; it is accurate to 1 second in 15 billion years, roughly the entire age of the known universe. Impressive, but it does not answer ‘What is time?’”
Working with constraints “allows a deeper exploration of fewer alternatives.” They “limit the overwhelming number of available choices to a manageable subset,” allowing us to “explore less familiar paths, to diverge in previously unknown directions.”
“What has the Facebook app and site become, if not a social network? The answer is rather obvious when you watch how people use it. It has become a personalized portal to the online world.”
“Napoleon would be trapped in the amber of time, in a big glass case, if not for one thing: Access to information.”
“Today the world’s top 20 richest cities have forged a super-circuit driven by capital, talent, and services: they are home to more than 75% of the largest companies, which in turn invest in expanding across those cities and adding more to expand the intercity network. Indeed, global cities have forged a league of their own, in many ways as denationalized as Formula One racing teams, drawing talent from around the world and amassing capital to spend on themselves while they compete on the same circuit.”
“Bottlenose dolphins have been observed chattering while cooperating to solve a tricky puzzle – a feat that suggests they have a type of vocalisation dedicated to cooperating on problem solving. … Importantly, the researchers were able to show that the increase in chatter was directly related to the canister-opening task as opposed to social interactions between the dolphins.”
“That term is hardly a household name among students, but say it to a college librarian, and he or she will know exactly what you’re talking about. It’s the feeling that one’s research skills are inadequate and that those shortcomings should be hidden. In some students it’s manifested as an outright fear of libraries and the librarians who work there. … ‘Why would anyone think we are intimidating?’ writes Michel C. Atlas. ‘What is intimidating about a master’s-prepared professional earning $35,000 a year?'”
“Even in cases where robots manage to act in ways similar to us (like playing chess), the way they go about performing these actions is very different from the way we do it. Both fish and submarines can travel distances underwater, but it is questionable whether it is appropriate to say they both swim.”
Frans de Waal: “We have trouble looking at animal intelligence by itself, always asking, ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the smartest of them all?’ Since there is only one answer that satisfies us, people watching [the chimp] Ayumu’s videotaped performance on the internet couldn’t believe it, saying it must be a hoax. … [Some] American scientists felt they had to go into special training to beat the chimp.” (They failed.)
“At the same time as an ever more bloated scientific bureaucracy churns out masses of research results, the majority of which are likely outright false, scientists themselves are lauded as heroes and science is upheld as the only legitimate basis for policy-making. There’s reason to believe that these phenomena are linked.”
“It’s the Faustian bargain we’ve all struck. In exchange for a ‘free’ web, we give you our time. Unfortunately, this structure is unsustainable and is compromising both our experience of the web and the quality of the things we consume.”
“The relative decline of St. Louis—along with that of other similarly endowed heartland cities—is therefore not simply, or even primarily, a story of deindustrialization. The larger explanation involves how presidents and lawmakers in both parties, influenced by a handful of economists and legal scholars, quietly altered federal competition policies, antitrust laws, and enforcement measures over a period of thirty years.”
“My objection isn’t so much to the idea that it’s wrong to use your own experiences as a guide to explain how you interact with the items under review as it is to the fact that so many of the critics who are doing it are boring, grasping people whose experiences are mundane at best and often comically overvalued given how empty and insignificant they are.”
“Somebody must have written about my street on their viral travel blog. Now I had the whole world at my doorstep; I just didn’t have Berlin anymore.”
“She responded, battling back her antagonists and becoming something of a folk hero in the process. Now her engagements often combine her two pursuits, as her talk at Women in the World did: tracing the history of misogyny from the ancient world to today.”
“The entire discourse around A.I. implicitly presupposes the superiority of E.I.” – evolved intelligence, i.e., the human and animal kind. “Much of the dystopian hysteria around A.I. reflects the fear that it will act as humans act (which is to say violently, selfishly, emotionally, and at times irrationally) – only it will have more capacity. In essence, much of what we fear is a much more competent E.I.”
“Susie McKinnon has no core memories that she is aware of. But there can be no doubt of her personality. … She has a job and she has hobbies, values, beliefs, opinions, a nucleus of friends. Though she doesn’t remember being a part of the anecdotes that shaped her into this person, she knows very well who she is. Which raises the question: Just how expendable is this supposedly essential part of being human after all?”
“The texts show that some philosophers believed that rulers should also be chosen on merit, not birth—radically different from the hereditary dynasties that came to dominate Chinese history. The texts also show a world in which magic and divination, even in the supposedly secular world of Confucius, played a much larger part than has been realized. And instead of an age in which sages neatly espoused discrete schools of philosophy, we now see a more fluid, dynamic world of vigorously competing views—the sort of robust exchange of ideas rarely prominent in subsequent eras.”
We’d probably call it burnout.
“The texts also show a world in which magic and divination, even in the supposedly secular world of Confucius, played a much larger part than has been realized. And instead of an age in which sages neatly espoused discrete schools of philosophy, we now see a more fluid, dynamic world of vigorously competing views — the sort of robust exchange of ideas rarely prominent in subsequent eras.”
“An account of a tour though East New York reads like a Dickens parody. Walk the streets and you’ll pass scrapyards; junkyards; auto dismantlers; methadone clinics; prostitution motels that charge by the hour; seventeen mental health facilities; fifteen drug-treatment facilities; twelve homeless shelters; half-way houses and three-quarter houses.”
“‘They’re haunting places,’ says Nick Trujillo, a New Mexico resident who that has made a hobby of exploring the lonesome ghost towns in the eastern part of his state. ‘There is something deeply personal about entering someone’s house, even if they have been gone for decades.'”
“‘IQ tests just measure how good you are at doing IQ tests.’ This is the argument that is almost always made when intelligence-testing is mentioned. It’s often promoted by people who are, otherwise, highly scientifically literate. … In fact, decades of well-replicated research point to IQ tests as some of the most reliable and valid instruments in all of psychological science.”
“Blindsight offers a tantalizing hint about human consciousness. It demonstrates the difference between merely processing visual information in the brain, like in a computer, versus having a reportable conscious experience of it.”
“A discomfort with the radical, or the confusing, or the challenging—with artworks, and lives, that insist on being otherwise—is very often what lies beneath the charge of pretentiousness. As much as it’s a way of deflating some apparently empty cultural gesture, calling something (or someone) pretentious is also a way of defending yourself against the uncomfortable feeling of not getting something, or—worse still—the uncomfortable suspicion that you’re being had.”