SECONDLY AND MOSTLY: Here’s some articles I’ve read recently that I think you might find interesting or thought-provoking! These are all things that I’ve read and NOT REGRETTED READING, which I feel is as good a standard for recommendation as any.
I dumped ’em into my Instapaper to read in bed on my iPad, I recommend you do the same or something equivalent. Or whatever, it’s a free country!…OR IS IT? Read these articles, and see!
I want to make a comic about [Ida B. Wells] but I don’t, because I respect her so much, and there’s nothing funny about a lot that she went through and fought against. Nothing at all. I’m thinking, “I can’t make some stupid poop comic about this woman!” That would be out of line for the respect I have for her. But more time passes, and I start to look at my work, and I’m thinking that if you leave out these people whose lives were hard and who were overlooked in history, and instead you just go for the easy targets, you’re just making comics about dead white presidents and leaving stories like Ida’s out yet again. It’s not like my comics are some kind of cultural masterpiece, they’re just dinky comics, but you know what I mean? So I made comics about Ida, and they are in the book, and I hope I did a good job, because I wanted to celebrate her.
If you did need to write realtime programs for a hundred billion 100Hz processors, one trick you’d use as heavily as possible is caching. That’s when you store the results of previous operations and look them up next time, instead of recomputing them from scratch. And it’s a very neural idiom—recognition, association, completing the pattern.
It’s a good guess that the actual majority of human cognition consists of cache lookups…
In modern civilization particularly, no one can think fast enough to think their own thoughts. If I’d been abandoned in the woods as an infant, raised by wolves or silent robots, I would scarcely be recognizable as human. No one can think fast enough to recapitulate the wisdom of a hunter-gatherer tribe in one lifetime, starting from scratch. As for the wisdom of a literate civilization, forget it.
But the flip side of this is that I continually see people who aspire to critical thinking, repeating back cached thoughts which were not invented by critical thinkers…
Much like cooking, computational thinking begins with a feat of imagination, the ability to envision how digitized information—ticket sales, customer addresses, the temperature in your fridge, the sequence of events to start a car engine, anything that can be sorted, counted, or tracked—could be combined and changed into something new by applying various computational techniques. From there, it’s all about “decomposing” big tasks into a logical series of smaller steps, just like a recipe.
There is a whole class of salaried professionals that, should you meet them at parties and admit that you do something that might be considered interesting (an anthropologist, for example), will want to avoid even discussing their line of work entirely. Give them a few drinks, and they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their job really is.
This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist?
But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?
BILL WATTERSON: When I was a kid, I loved Peanuts, so I wanted to be the next Charles Schulz. I didn’t understand what that meant of course, but it seemed like a plan. You came to your comic strip from a different path, however.
RICHARD THOMPSON: Yeah. Off in my own little world of being a pretend cartoonist. Without a plan.
Some people think that a solution must be new and different in order to be creative. How superficial. Being new and different is not the necessary ingredient. Solving the problem is what is necessary. (By definition, “new and different” has already been done.) So don’t worry about it.
Rebellion for its own sake isn’t edgy or groundbreaking; it’s tired and hackneyed, and no more original or creative than the adolescent hormones that produce those feelings. Breaking rules is not the hallmark of creativity, solving problems is.
The exploration of Africa by the British is a story that has been told time and again, often in tiresome detail. We have shelves full of biographies of famous explorers like David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley, along with countless other books on the subject. These tales of adventure invariably end in the hero’s triumphant return to “civilization” or brave death in “darkest Africa”. Such stories were popular with the Victorian public, and they remain popular today. Yet some major African expeditions have never received much attention. These were expeditions that ended in ignominious failure. Because they undermine the triumphalist narrative of the European encounter with Africa, they have been all but erased from historical memory. For this reason alone, they deserve revisiting. They also happen to tell us a lot about what the British hoped to achieve in Africa, and why it proved such a challenge.
The motte-and-bailey doctrine is when you make a bold, controversial statement. Then when somebody challenges you, you claim you were just making an obvious, uncontroversial statement, so you are clearly right and they are silly for challenging you. Then when the argument is over you go back to making the bold, controversial statement.
…Women were considered to be temptresses who inherited their treachery from Eve. Their sexual passion was seen as a sign of their inferior morality, reason and intellect, and justified tight control by husbands and fathers. Men, who were not so consumed with lust and who had superior abilities of self-control, were the gender more naturally suited to holding positions of power and influence…
By positioning themselves as naturally chaste and virtuous, Protestant women could make the case for themselves as worthy moral and intellectual equals. They could carve out a space for themselves to participate in political life as social reformers advocating for moral causes like charity for the poor and prohibition.
…Planets in the universe will be the size of real planets, and they will be separated from one another by light-years of digital space. A small fraction of them will support complex life. Because the designers are building their universe by establishing its laws of nature, rather than by hand-crafting its details, much about it remains unknown, even to them. They are scheduled to finish at the end of this year; at that time, they will invite millions of people to explore their creation, as a video game, packaged under the title No Man’s Sky.
Finally, to wrap up and for extra credit, the essay that everyone should read carefully once a year: Self-Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them.
But why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this corpse of your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or that public place? Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then? It seems to be a rule of wisdom never to rely on your memory alone, scarcely even in acts of pure memory, but to bring the past for judgment into the thousand-eyed present, and live ever in a new day. In your metaphysics you have denied personality to the Deity: yet when the devout motions of the soul come, yield to them heart and life, though they should clothe God with shape and color. Leave your theory, as Joseph his coat in the hand of the harlot, and flee.
Happy reading! THAT SHOULD KEEP YOU BUSY A WHILE