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Here's the slide deck [PDF] from a Michael Dearing presentation called "The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done." As Kottke points out, a lot of context is missing, but what's there is fascinating -- an enumeration of the blind spots of "people who get extraordinary stuff done in Silicon Valley," based on interviews with 4,515 founders from 2,481 companies.

1. Personal exceptionalism
2. Dichotomous thinking
3. Correct overgeneralization
4. Blank canvas thinking
5. Schumpeterianism

The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done [PDF]

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00_NOP writes "Researchers from the New School for Social Research in New York have demonstrated that if you read quality literary fiction you become a better person, in the sense that you are more likely to empathize with others [paper abstract]. Presumably we can all think of books that have changed the way we feel about the world — so this is, in a sense, a scientific confirmation of something fairly intuitive."

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Original author: 
Brian Sharp

This talk is about leading well by doing two things: communicating effectively and maintaining perspective. Conversations obviously bear meaning on many levels beyond explicit words; here we'll talk about frames, the assumptions and context we bring to our interactions. Skillful framing is worth the practice, as it can inspire, motivate and energize, help you navigate the shores of professional power dynamics and strengthen relationships of all kinds.

Of course, it only does those things if you want it to, which brings us to intention, the motivation behind your every action. It's deceptively easy to believe we're acting for one reason, often a noble one, when our true intention is something else. When we do that, our behavior often ends up causing harm and sabotaging our true goals. We'll talk about the work involved in staying aware of your intention and steering it in a direction that'll yield the right results.

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(author unknown)

All due respect to Douglas Adams, but I’m a lover of print, and I’m not “confused” about anything.

I like Adams’ analogy. Indeed, only the logically obtuse would fail to recognize that a work of writing takes priority over the medium in which it is transmitted, just as food takes priority over the plate on which it is served. But it doesn’t follow that the medium (in this case, print) is unworthy of “love”. The food might be the primary purpose of the meal, but there is much more to a meal than the food itself, as any chef or server can attest. The same holds for writing. And just as in all other things mediated by culture, there is such a thing as appreciation for the medium. It’s called aesthetics, and everyone has their own tastes and preferences.

Perhaps Adams is a strict utilitarian with no affection for print. I respect his personal preference, even if I shrug off his apparent arrogance in not returning the courtesy. But some of us love reading the printed page and appreciate the art of the bound book, that has developed over the many centuries since Gutenberg. And our love of print has nothing to do with a failure of intellect, thank you very much. And some of us can actually appreciate history in a personal way without being luddites.

Presuming that the context of Adams’ statement is the ongoing digital revolution in publishing, I think it would be more accurate to say, “Opponents of digital publishing are simply confusing the plate for the food.” The distinction between “lovers of print” and “opponents of digital publishing” is an important one. That someone feels romantically about print doesn’t necessarily tell you what one thinks about the digital revolution in publishing. The issue at hand isn’t the subjective disposition one has toward books, but the stand that one takes in response to the history unfolding in our midst, perhaps even in spite of our emotional ambivalence about it. Of course: dismiss bad arguments from digital critics. But don’t muddy the water by assuming that the problem is nostalgia; the fallacy of many critics is not their emotion about books, but the inability to see past it.

I, for one, embrace digital publication, even if I will continue to critically follow the policy discussions regarding intellectual property that it brings about. And yet I will continue to participate in a community that values print. And while many of us will embrace e-readers, we will yet remain, to our dying days, proud collectors of analog volumes which will fill many shelves in our homes. And maybe through some turn of history our undying affinity for print will someday appear not so confused or misguided as once so arrogantly believed by some, but will instead be understood as possessing a wisdom unrecognized by the short-sighted utilitarians of our day. Then again, maybe future generations will forget our love of print altogether. No matter. Our love of books needs no vindication from history; we have the pleasure of the page in our hands. 

The above is a response one of my friends gave to Douglas Adams’ quote in the box above. I think his response is not only poignant, but gets to the heart of the matter for those of us who still love print but yet do not reject digital publication. His response is well worth reading.

(via wordpainting: / machina-analytica:)

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I just got done reading Ray Kurzweil's How to Create a Mind, his latest on how machines will soon (2030ish) pass the Turing test, and then basically become like robots envisaged in the 60's, with distinct personalities, acting as faithful butlers to our various needs.

And then, today over on The Edge, Bruce Sterling is saying that's all a pipe dream, computers are still pretty dumb.  As someone who works with computer algorithms all day, I too am rather unimpressed by a computer's intelligence.

He also notes that IBM's Watson won a Jeapardy! contest by reading all of Wikipedia, a feat clearly beyond any human mind. Further, as Kurzweil notes, many humans are pretty simple, and so it's not inconceivable a computer can replicate your average human, if only average is pretty predictable. Sirri is already funnier than perhaps 10% of humans.

But I doubt they will ever approximate a human, because human's have what machines can't have, which is emotions, and emotions are necessary for prioritizing, and a good prioritization is the essence of wisdom.  One can be a genius, but if you are focused solely on one thing you are autistic, and such people aren't called idiot-savants for nothing.

Just as objectivity is not the result of objective scientist, but an emergent result of the scientific community, consciousness may not be the result of a thoughtful individual, but a byproduct of a striving individual enmeshed in a community of other minds, each wishing to understand the other minds better so that they can rise above them. I see how you could program this drive into a computer, a deep parameter that gives points for how many times others call their app, perhaps.

Kurzwiel notes that among species of vole rats, those that have monogamous bonds have oxytocin and vasopressin receptors, and those that opt for one-night stands do not. Hard wired emotions dictate behavior.  But it's one thing to program a desire for company, an aversion to loneliness, another to desire a truly independent will.

Proto humans presumably had the consciousness of dogs, so something in our striving created consciousness incidentally. Schopenhauer said "we don't want a thing because we have found reasons for it, we find reasons for it because we want it." The intellect may at times to lead the will, but only as a guide leads the master. He saw the will to power, and fear of death, as being the essence of humanity.  Nietzsche noted similarly that "Happiness is the feeling that power increases."  I suppose one could try to put this into a program as a deep preference, but I'm not sure how, in that, what power to a computer could be analogous to power wielded by humans?

Kierkegaard thought the crux of human consciousness was anxiety, worrying about doing the right thing.  That is, consciousness is not merely having perceptions and thoughts, even self-referential thoughts, but doubt, anxiety about one's priorities and how well one is mastering them. We all have multiple priorities--self preservation, sensual pleasure, social status, meaning--and the higher we go the more doubtful we are about them. Having no doubt, like having no worries, isn't bliss, it's the end of consciousness.  That's what always bothers me about people who suggest we search for flow, because like good music or wine, it's nice occasionally like any other sensual pleasure, but only occasionally in the context of a life of perceived earned success.

Consider the Angler Fish. The smaller male is born with a huge olfactory system, and once he has developed some gonads, smells around for a gigantic female. When he finds her, he bites into her skin and releases an enzyme that digests the skin of his mouth and her body, fusing the pair down to the blood-vessel level. He is then fed by, and has his waste removed by, the female's blood supply, as the male is basically turned into a parasite. However, he is a welcomed parasite, because the female needs his sperm. What happens to a welcomed parasite? Other than his gonads, his organs simply disappear, because all that remains is all that is needed. No eyes, no jaw, no brain. He has achieved his purpose, and could just chill in some Confucian calm, but instead just dissolves his brain entirely.

A computer needs pretty explicit goals because otherwise the state space of things it will do blows up, and one can end up figuratively calculating the 10^54th digit of pi--difficult to be sure, and not totally useless, but still pretty useless.  Without anxiety one could easily end up in an intellectual cul-de-sac and not care.  I don't see how a computer program with multiple goals would feel anxiety, because they don't have finite lives, so they can work continuously, forever, making it nonproblematic that one didn't achieve some goal by the time one's eggs ran out.  Our anxiety makes us satisfice, or find novel connections that do not what we originally wanted but do what's very useful nonetheless, and in the process helped increase our sense of meaning and status (often, by helping others).

Anxiety is what makes us worry we are at best maximizes an inferior local maximum, and so need to start over, and this helps us figure things out with minimal direction.  A program that does only what you tell it to do is pretty stupid compared to even stupid humans, any don't think for a second neural nets or hierarchical hidden markov models (HHMMs) can figure stuff out that isn't extremely well defined (like figuring out captchas, where Kurzweil thinks HHMMs show us something analogous to human thought).

Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche were all creative, deep thinkers about the essence of humanity, and they were all very lonely and depressed. When young they thought they were above simple romantic pair bonds, but all seemed to have deep regrets later, and I think this caused them to apply themselves more resolutely to abstract ideas (also, alas, women really like confidence in men, which leads to all sorts of interesting issues, including that their doubt hindered their ability to later find partners, and that perhaps women aren't fully conscious (beware troll!)). Humans have trade-offs, and we are always worrying if we are making the right ones, because no matter how smart you are, you can screw up a key decision and pay for it the rest of your life. We need fear, pride, shame, lust, greed and envy, in moderation, and I think you can probably get those into a computer.  But anxiety, doubt, I don't think can be programmed because logically a computer is always doing the very best it can in that's its only discretion is purely random, and so it perceives only risk and not uncertainty (per Keynes/Knight/Minsky), and thus, no doubt. 

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Dr. Rick Schubert: Concepts and Cages: Life Beyond the Limits of Ideas - at TEDxAmericanRiviera 2012

Our ideas shape our lives. And none of our ideas shapes our lives more than our ideas of who we are, what philosophers call our "self-conceptions". Many of us struggle as adults to "find ourselves," to break free from our old, externally imposed self-conceptions and to arrive at new ones of our own choosing. But Daoism, a classical Chinese philosophy, warns us that all our concepts are cages. They impose limitation, take our freedom, cloud our vision. Some cages are more pleasant than others. But we're better off being free. Rick Schubert explains the Daoist path to freedom; how we can use concepts to move past concepts, how we can use our cages as things to stand on so we can get a better view.
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Who Controls the World: James B. Glattfelder at TEDxZurich

It sounds paradoxical, but today it appears that we understand more about the universe than our society. We have created systems that have outgrown our capacity to genuinely understand and control them as evinced by the ongoing financial crisis. Recent advancements in the study of complex systems are able to offer new insights into the workings of many real-world systems. While our traditional ways of thinking and problem solving have been strongly shaped by the success of the reductionist approach taken in science, the new science of complexity focuses on interconnection and co-dependence. It is a paradigmatic shift away from analyzing the nature of "things" to uncovering and understanding the network of interdependence lying behind and influencing the "things" themselves. As a prominent example, the first global economic network analysis is discussed, offering a new perspective on some relevant issues. For instance, how unequal and unstable is our economy in truth? And is this actually the result of a few puppet masters orchestrating the developments behind the scenes? James B. Glattfelder grew up in the Swiss mountains and his interests include the philosophy of science in addition to societal and environmental issues. In 2011 he co-authored the study "The Network of Global Corporate Control" which was widely covered in the international media and sparked controversial discussions. He is co-head of quantitative research at Olsen Ltd in Zurich, an FX investment manager <b>...</b>
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The Swapper's a cold, strange game. As it starts, low key lighting sets the mood in a series of deliberately-paced rotational shots: a small planet orbits an incandescent star; a space station orbits overhead, bathed in a melancholy blue; an escape pod launches, fleeing dangers unknown. The whole scene only lasts a minute and a half from fade-in to lunar landing, but the languid pace hearkens to the internalized mode of sci-fi films like Moon or Solaris, brooding and mesmerisingly obscure.

The ambient tone reflects The Swapper's atmosphere, cobbled together from a textured mash of real-life assets (the two-man team have created a uniquely constructional aesthetic using photographs of real world objects to get around the hassle of creating original art) and the game's primary mechanic, or rather its ethical implications.

The eponymous swapper is a cloning gun that lets you transfer your consciousness from one body to another. Rather than treating this as simply a means to a gameplay end, the narrative of this puzzle platformer delves into the ramifications that might arise from using such a device.

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call -151 writes "Many years ago, a human-generated intentionally nonsense paper was accepted by the (prominent) literary culture journal Social Text. In August, a randomly-generated nonsense mathematics paper was accepted by one of the many low-tier 'open-access' research mathematics journals. The software Mathgen, which generated the accepted submission, takes as inputs author names (or those can be randomly selected also) and generates nicely TeX'd and impressive-sounding sentences which are grammatically correct but mathematically disconnected nonsense. This was reviewed by a human, (quickly, for math, in 12 days) and the reviewers' comments mention superficial problems with the submission (PDF). The references are also randomly-generated and rather hilarious. For those with concerns about submitting to lower-tier journals in an effort to promote open access, this is not a good sign!"


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