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Donald Trump and norms: Resistance needs substance - Vox
But the insistence on exoticizing Trump — on seeing him not just as a threat to democracy and the rule of law but as a unique threat — necessarily tilts in that direction.

The five Republican justices on the Supreme Court aren’t endorsing purges of the voting rolls because Trump forced them, and the North Carolina GOP didn’t need Trump’s inspiration to introduce yet another effort to disenfranchise voters via strict ID laws. It was George H.W. Bush, not Trump, who abusively wielded the pardon power to curb the special prosecutor investigation into the Iran-Contra scandal, and John Boehner killed the Voting Rights Act long before anyone took Trump’s presidential aspirations seriously.

None of this is to excuse Trump’s various misdeeds in any way. It’s merely to say that the present peril is not so different from the perils of the past. The time-honored solution of trying to select charismatic candidates who propose popular ideas that will improve normal people’s lives remains the correct one.

#conservatives  #us#2020  #us#dems  #us#elections  #us#trumpland  %contrarian 
16 days ago by lemeb
Dissolving the Fermi Paradox
The Fermi paradox is the conflict between an expectation of a high ex ante probability of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe and the apparently lifeless universe we in fact observe. The expectation that the universe should be teeming with intelligent life is linked to models like the Drake equation, which suggest that even if the probability of intelligent life developing at a given site is small, the sheer multitude of possible sites should nonetheless yield a large number of potentially observable civilizations. We show that this conflict arises from the use of Drake-like equations, which implicitly assume certainty regarding highly uncertain parameters. We examine these parameters, incorporating models of chem- ical and genetic transitions on paths to the origin of life, and show that extant scientific knowledge corresponds to uncertainties that span multi- ple orders of magnitude. This makes a stark difference. When the model is recast to represent realistic distributions of uncertainty, we find a sub- stantial ex ante probability of there being no other intelligent life in our observable universe, and thus that there should be little surprise when we fail to detect any signs of it. This result dissolves the Fermi paradox, and in doing so removes any need to invoke speculative mechanisms by which civilizations would inevitably fail to have observable effects upon the universe.

forever alone
%philosophy  %contrarian  #space 
5 weeks ago by lemeb
Structured Procrastination
Procrastinators often follow exactly the wrong tack. They try to minimize their commitments, assuming that if they have only a few things to do, they will quit procrastinating and get them done. But this goes contrary to the basic nature of the procrastinator and destroys his most important source of motivation. The few tasks on his list will be by definition the most important, and the only way to avoid doing them will be to do nothing. This is a way to become a couch potato, not an effective human being.

At this point you may be asking, "How about the important tasks at the top of the list, that one never does?" Admittedly, there is a potential problem here.

The trick is to pick the right sorts of projects for the top of the list. The ideal sorts of things have two characteristics, First, they seem to have clear deadlines (but really don't). Second, they seem awfully important (but really aren't). Luckily, life abounds with such tasks. In universities the vast majority of tasks fall into this category, and I'm sure the same is true for most other large institutions. Take for example the item right at the top of my list right now. This is finishing an essay for a volume in the philosophy of language. It was supposed to be done eleven months ago. I have accomplished an enormous number of important things as a way of not working on it. A couple of months ago, bothered by guilt, I wrote a letter to the editor saying how sorry I was to be so late and expressing my good intentions to get to work. Writing the letter was, of course, a way of not working on the article. It turned out that I really wasn't much further behind schedule than anyone else. And how important is this article anyway? Not so important that at some point something that seems more important won't come along. Then I'll get to work on it.

%contrarian  &forfutureref  !me  ~adhd 
7 weeks ago by lemeb
Why We Haven’t Met Any Aliens § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM
The story goes like this: Sometime in the 1940s, Enrico Fermi was talking about the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence with some other physicists. They were impressed that life had evolved quickly and progressively on Earth. They figured our galaxy holds about 100 billion stars, and that an intelligent, exponentially-reproducing species could colonize the galaxy in just a few million years. They reasoned that extraterrestrial intelligence should be common by now. Fermi listened patiently, then asked, simply, “So, where is everybody?” That is, if extraterrestrial intelligence is common, why haven’t we met any bright aliens yet? This conundrum became known as Fermi’s Paradox.

I suggest a different, even darker solution to the Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don’t blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they’re too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don’t need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain’s ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels…ever so good.

Christian and Muslim fundamentalists and anti-consumerism activists already understand exactly what the Great Temptation is, and how to avoid it. They insulate themselves from our creative-class dreamworlds and our EverQuest economics. They wait patiently for our fitness-faking narcissism to go extinct. Those practical-minded breeders will inherit the Earth as like-minded aliens may have inherited a few other planets. When they finally achieve contact, it will not be a meeting of novel-readers and game-players. It will be a meeting of dead-serious super-parents who congratulate each other on surviving not just the Bomb, but the Xbox.

!write!dystopia  %contrarian  %philosophy  #space 
7 weeks ago by lemeb
The time has come to say goodbye to men, and I can hardly believe you’d need me to tell you why. They murder, a lot. They assault and abuse, a lot. They start international and domestic wars, or at least try to. They talk too much, they don’t listen, and they’re bad at their jobs. They’re not just a problem but one of the biggest problems of our era, though saying so is still uncomfortably received by most.

It’d be easier to put a cheeky spin on it, but it’s hard to be facetious about something so objectively harmful. It’s like “joking” about eliminating asbestos, or throwing out curdled milk. Oh, ha, ha, men! Aren’t they rascals? Can’t live with them, can’t live….well, you really can’t live without them because sometimes they kill you and your family if you leave! Ha, ha! Would you like some more expired milk?

I bet most of us know and love at least one male individual, maybe even several, but don’t you worry that your favorite guy will go bad? Living with a gender binary is like living in a zombie movie: Of course we want to hang on to the affable dude friend who’s not yet showing symptoms of being like the others. We love him, and he’s on our side. We need all the help we can get. But he could turn into one of them at any moment.

%contrarian  #sex  *societyhell  ~feminism 
12 weeks ago by lemeb
The Abolition of Boredom
Today, I open more apps in a day than I am able to close—and they keep accumulating like digital equivalents of New Yorkers massing on the coffee table. In addition to reading, I communicate through iMessage, email, Facebook messenger, Twitter, Instagram, and countless other platforms with everyone from old classmates to best friends and families to perfect strangers. I am never lonely. There is simply too much content, let alone contact, to ever again feel bored again. I know that this comes at a steep price, but I am also grateful. There is so much interesting stuff out there. We cannot begin to engage with it fully, and all in all, this is a good problem.
!write!technologist  %contrarian 
april 2018 by lemeb
In his new book, James Comey calls for ‘ethical leadership.’ But does he live up to it? - The Washington Post
washpo critic says what i’ve been feeling about the comey book:
Comey revisits his own big career moments — prosecuting mobsters, standing up to Vice President Dick Cheney and his consigliere David Addington over counterterrorism policies — with understandable pride. Yet he constantly worries he is too self-centered. “I can be stubborn, prideful, overconfident, and driven by ego,” he admits. “I’ve struggled with those my whole life.”

That struggle continues in this book. (...) He rejects the notion that “I am in love with my own righteousness” yet notes that “I have long worried about my ego.” (Consider the egotism of being preoccupied by your egotism.) (...)

He laments Trump’s lack of self-reflection or self-awareness. “Listening to others who disagree with me and are willing to criticize me is essential to piercing the seduction of certainty,” Comey writes. “Doubt, I’ve learned, is wisdom. . . . Those leaders who never think they are wrong, who never question their judgments or perspectives, are a danger to the organizations and people they lead.”

Trump is the most severe example of that tendency in this book. But he is not the only one.
%bookreview  %contrarian  #us#affairerusse 
april 2018 by lemeb
Why Entrepreneurs Start Companies Rather Than Join Them (
It never crossed my mind that I gravitated to startups because I thought more of my abilities than the value a large company would put on them. At least not consciously. But that’s the conclusion of a provocative research paper, Asymmetric Information and Entrepreneurship, that explains a new theory of why some people choose to be entrepreneurs. The authors’ conclusion — Entrepreneurs think they are better than their resumes show and realize they can make more money by going it alone. And in most cases, they are right.

this is anti-clickbait: an article that delivers way more than its title suggests.

Surprisingly, the company that best epitomized this was not some old-line manufacturing company but Google. When Marissa Mayer ran products at Google the New York Times described her hiring process, “More often than not, she relies on charts, graphs and quantitative analysis as a foundation for a decision, particularly when it comes to evaluating people…At a recent personnel meeting, she homes in on grade-point averages and SAT scores to narrow a list of candidates, many having graduated from Ivy League schools, …One candidate got a C in macroeconomics. “That’s troubling to me,” Ms. Mayer says. “Good students are good at all things.”

Really. What a perfect example of adverse signaling. No wonder the most successful Google products, other than search, have been acquisitions of startups not internal products: YouTube, Android, DoubleClick, Keyhole (Google Maps), Waze were started and run by entrepreneurs. The type of people Google and Marissa Mayer wouldn’t and didn’t hire started the companies they bought.
%contrarian  %theory  %econ  %policystats  !write!technologist  #startup 
april 2018 by lemeb
Goldman Sachs questions whether curing patients is a sustainable business model (
One-shot cures for diseases are not great for business—more specifically, they’re bad for longterm profits—Goldman Sachs analysts noted in an April 10 report for biotech clients, first reported by CNBC. The investment banks’ report, titled “The Genome Revolution,” asks clients the touchy question: “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” The answer may be “no,” according to follow-up information provided. Analyst Salveen Richter and colleagues laid it out: The potential to deliver “one shot cures” is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically engineered cell therapy, and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies... While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow.

in the both-totally-logical-and-utterly-depressing category

to be fair, i guess economists would say that one-shot cures have massive positive externalities, which, well are not reaped directly by pharma. sad!
%econ  #$#pharma  #$#innov  %contrarian 
april 2018 by lemeb
The Libertarian Who Accidentally Helped Make the Case for Regulation
For his first paper using the database, Tabarrok decided to analyze the effect of federal regulation on “economic dynamism”—a catch-all term referring to the rate at which new businesses launch and grow, and at which people switch jobs, lose jobs, or migrate for work. There has been a notable and somewhat mysterious decline in dynamism over the last few decades. The rate at which start-ups form is half of what it was forty years ago, the fraction of workers who bounce from one job to another—a sign of competitive labor markets—has plunged, productivity has slowed, and adult employment remains well below its early-2000 peak.

Armed with RegData, Tabarrok and Goldschlag set out to show that regulations were at least partly to blame. But they couldn’t. There was simply no correlation, they found, between the degree of federal regulation and the decline of business dynamism. The decline was seen across many different industries, including those that are heavily regulated and those that are not. They tried two other independent tests that didn’t rely on RegData, and came to the same conclusion: an increase in federal regulation just could not explain what was going on.

props to him for releasing a paper counter to his beliefs! also, suggested in the article as the real culprit is corporate concentration... but Tabarrok doesn’t think antitrust can fix that. go figure.
#$#monopoly  #conservatives  *stats  %policystats  %contrarian  %bigdata  %econ 
april 2018 by lemeb
Making The Grade: Why Apple’s education strategy is not based on reality | 9to5Mac
Apple’s next book for education needs to be about reinventing everything. Part of the Tim Cook doctrine is this:

“We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.”

This doctrine should apply to education as well. If Apple believes they can make a significant contribution to schools, then they should go all in to change everything about school technology. They should buy major a textbook publisher and change the purchasing model for books when you deploy iPads. They should buy (or buy back) a student information system platform and integrate it with all of their new apps.

They should build a viable alternative to G-Suite that makes it easy for schools to manage communications. They should do all of this at a price where the least affluent districts can deploy it as easily as the most affluent ones.

actually amazing take. that apple doesn’t want to eat their margins in education is spellbinding.
~apple  %contrarian 
april 2018 by lemeb
Overcoming Bias : Toward Reality TV MBAs
If one can learn much from just watching the inside story of real firms over several years, that suggests a big win: record the full lives of many rising managers over several years, and show a mildly compressed and annotated selection of such recordings to aspiring managers. Such recordings could be compressed by deleting sleep and non-social periods. They could be annotated to identify key decisions and ask viewers to make their own choices, before they see actual choices. Recordings might be selected 2/3 from the most successful, and 1/3 from a sampling of others.

Yes, there are issues of privacy and business secrets. But these are already issues for personal assistants and others who attend key business meetings. Waiting five years could take away many business secret concerns. And we don’t have to make these videos available to the world; making manager experiences visible to only 100 times more people might increase our pool of good manager candidates by a factor of 100. And that could be worth trillions to the world economy.
%contrarian  ~management 
april 2018 by lemeb
The average American is much better off now than four decades ago
The past four decades have been hard for many Americans. Trade and technology have upended the labour market, and many low-skilled men have left the workforce. Economic growth has been weak in non-coastal states, and the top few percent take home a greater share of all income. Wage growth, by any measure, has been far lower than in the post-war decades. But the idea that the typical American is little better off than four decades ago does not withstand scrutiny.

hint: it’s all in the stats. good contrarian take, although i would surmise that the cash on hand is still roughly the same now than it was 40 years ago... i guess that’s the difference between CPI and PCE.
%policystats  %contrarian 
april 2018 by lemeb
The man behind the dictionary. Noah Webster Jr. had superiority issues, a penchant for political incorrectness, and a zeal for Americanizing English
Merriam-Webster’s resistance to an administration steeped in nativism, however, is complicated by the dictionary’s original goal to create and preserve a monolithic American culture. Noah Webster Jr., the dictionary’s founding author, was one of the first American nationalists, and he wrote his reference books with the express purpose of creating a single definition of American English—one that often existed at the expense of regional and cultural variation of any kind.
%criticism  %contrarian  ~history 
april 2018 by lemeb
The impossibility of intelligence explosion – François Chollet – Medium
If intelligence is fundamentally linked to specific sensorimotor modalities, a specific environment, a specific upbringing, and a specific problem to solve, then you cannot hope to arbitrarily increase the intelligence of an agent merely by tuning its brain — no more than you can increase the throughput of a factory line by speeding up the conveyor belt

%contrarian  #t#ml 
december 2017 by lemeb
Toolkits for the Mind - MIT Technology Review
Most successful programming languages have an overall philosophy or set of guiding principles that organize their vocabulary and grammar—the set of possible instructions they make available to the programmer—into a logical whole. PHP doesn’t. Its creator, Rasmus Lerdorf, freely admits he just cobbled it together. “I don’t know how to stop it,” he said in a 2003 interview. “I have absolutely no idea how to write a programming language—I just kept adding the next logical step along the way.”

Programmers’ favorite example is a PHP function called “mysql_escape_string,” which rids a query of malicious input before sending it off to a database. (For an example of a malicious input, think of a form on a website that asks for your e-mail address; a hacker can enter code in that slot to force the site to cough up passwords.) When a bug was discovered in the function, a new version was added, called “mysql_real_escape_string,” but the original was not replaced. The result is a bit like having two similar-looking buttons right next to each other in an airline cockpit: one that puts the landing gear down and one that puts it down safely. It’s not just an affront to common sense—it’s a recipe for disaster.
%explainer  %contrarian  !write!technologist 
november 2017 by lemeb
Immigrants Do a Great Job at Becoming Americans
Assimilation, therefore, is really a process of integration -- many cultures becoming one culture. E pluribus unum. American parents of all races can expect their children to know how to use chopsticks and to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, just as older generations of Americans embraced German Christmas trees and Italian pasta. Cultural preservationists on all sides might be unhappy with this, while cosmopolitans will rejoice. But no matter what you think of cultural evolution, it’s important to realize that integration is nothing like the submissive, conformist abandonment of all ancestral culture that some nativists wrongly imagine prevailed in the past.
#immigration  %contrarian  %😃 
november 2017 by lemeb
Breitbart is too dumb to survive the net neutrality apocalypse / Boing Boing
Case in point: Breitbart News. The only reason Breitbart was able to be economically viable and politically influential is because of net neutrality: if their ability to contact their constituencies was contingent on approval from the establishment they decry, they'd have been strangled in their cradle.

This is true of many things I love and many things I hate: insurgencies rely on free, fair, open infrastructure and suffer under systems of control and incumbency. Boing Boing thrives because of the same free, fair and open network that let Breitbart arise.

What Breitbart doesn't realize is that the weapon they fashion for Trump and his FCC will remain locked and loaded for the administrations that come next: once you erode the principle of net neutrality, then a 2018 Democratic Congress or a 2020 Democratic President could simply turn Breitbart off.
#conservatives  #techpol  %contrarian  !write!technologist  !write!readthenews  #$#journalism  #us#trumpland  !write!dystopia 
november 2017 by lemeb

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