Link Dump 005
August 2, 2019
I promise I’ll write a real post soon, but this week has been so busy! This is the first chance I’ve gotten to work on personal stuff this week! Anyway, please enjoy these links!
Articles, Posts, Papers, & Threads
- This “thread” from Robin Sloan is fantastic. (I put “thread” in scare quotes because it’s not actually on any real social medium; it’s just a plain old HTML page.) It’s a critique of the way social media amplifies anything and everything in a bad way, like a negative feedback loop. “Maybe...the same algorithms that presently identify popular messages and promote them could have the opposite effect, like those circuit breakers in stock exchanges. They could be wired to the brakes instead of the gas.”
- “Oh God, It’s Raining Newsletters” is a case for owning your social media content via newsletter rather than putting it all in a big, corporate, social media silo. And, in case you haven’t noticed, this kind of message strongly resonates with me. I’m all the way here for RSS, email, and other decentralized / federated solutions to these problems.
- “Mental Models”: “Mental models do two things: they help you assess how systems work and they help you make better decisions. These two concepts underlie everything you do.” I haven’t finished reading this yet, but I’m fascinated.
- Here is a fun (and potentially devious) way to find random PDFs to read!
- “Why I Have a Website and You Should Too”: “Having a website and/or blog is not about being a web developer, nor about being a celebrity of sorts, but is about being a citizen of the Web.”
- “The Crane Wife” is a beautiful, melancholy meditation on cranes, the aftermath of an almost-marriage, and knowing one’s needs from one’s partners.
- “Deconstructing Brian Eno’s ‘Music for Airports’” is exactly what it sounds like. I really like that particular Eno piece, so this article just makes it that much better.
- “Metaphors we believe by: the pantheon of 2019”: “I’ve started to realize that the God vs. science situation is a bit more complicated than Sam Harris led me to believe. The more I learn, the more I suspect that rationalists only managed to kill a very narrow and anthropomorphic conception of God. People who study complex systems started using new words to talk about god-like phenomena—metaphors that are more palatable to secular minds. I believe these new words can help scientifically-minded people better understand what it actually felt like to believe in God before science became a Thing. Let’s take a tour through the pantheon of 2019 and explore what these seven ‘gods’ might teach us in our era of ecological crisis and post-truth confusion.”
- “Can Everyone Be Excellent?” is a critique of the way we use standards in American public education. For example, if most students pass a test, we say that the standards were probably too low. So, we ratchet the standards higher and higher until most students fail. But then we complain that our standards are clearly not high enough because too many students are falling through the cracks! It’s a never-ending cycle of stupid, apparently.
- “Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg’s Fake Accounts Ponzi Scheme” is Aaron Greenspan’s case that Facebook is making an increasing amount of its ad revenue from fake accounts.
- “Beware the ethical car”: “By co-opting the language of climate change, companies are going to try and make cars ethical.” Yup. It’s already here.
- Here is a list of what all humans have in common; i.e., “features of culture, society, language, behavior, and psyche for which there are no known exception.”
- awesome-clean-tech is a curated list of clean tech companies.
- “How to Drop Out”—Favorite quote so far: “You might start projects that seem like the kind of thing you’re supposed to love doing, music or writing or art, and not finish because nobody is forcing you to finish and it’s not really what you want to do. It could take months, if you’re lucky, or more likely years, before you can build up the life inside you to an intensity where it can drive projects that you actually enjoy and finish, and then it will take more time before you build up enough skill that other people recognize your actions as valuable.”
- “The Evolutionary Roots of Human Decision Making” describes how scientists measured cognitive biases in non-human primates and (pretty much unsurprisingly) found that their styles of thinking are very similar to ours. For example: “In one study, monkeys had a choice between one experimenter (the gains experimenter) who started by showing the monkey one piece of apple and sometimes added an extra piece of apple, and a second experimenter (the losses experimenter) who started by showing the monkey two pieces of apple and sometimes removed one. Monkeys showed an overwhelming preference for the gains experimenter over the losses experimenter—even though they received the same payoff from both. In this way, capuchins appear to avoid options that are framed as a loss, just as humans do.”
- “Pro-Environmental Behavior: Herd Mentality Motivates, Money Does Not”: “According to this study, people can be motivated and persuaded to adopt environmentally conscious lifestyle choices by leveraging normative influence & herd mentality instead of speaking of financial & moral implications.”
- “Stop Confusing Habits for Routines: What You Need To Know”: Please don’t go to this person’s website. It throws up a horrible, stupid pop-up after you’ve been there for 30 seconds or so, which makes me very angry because this person apparently spends his time working on “user experience, behavioral economics, and a dash of neuroscience,” only to commit a cardinal web sin that suggests he’s either ignoring those principles or using them maliciously to push his mailing list. But, unethical website practices aside, his point in this post is that we need to understand the difference between habits and routines if we want to change our behavior effectively. In short: “A habit is an impulse to do a behavior with little or no conscious thought. Not doing a habit feels uncomfortable, like not washing your hands after using the toilet or not flossing your teeth before bed. A routine is a behavior frequently repeated. Unlike a habit, skipping a routine doesn’t feel bad and without proper forethought, can be easily skipped or forgotten. Some routines can become habits but only if it’s a behavior that can be done with little conscious thought. Trying to turn a behavior that requires a lot of effort (like writing or breaking a physical fitness goal) into a habit will backfire if you expect it to become effortless. Forming a habit requires first sticking to a routine. To do that, make time in your schedule, expect and learn to cope with discomfort, and find ways to pre-commit to the task.”
- Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin is a PBS documentary that’s airing today! You can watch the full hour-long documentary via this link! (She’s one of my very favorite authors, by the way. I love the Earthsea series.)
- Simulating the Evolution of Aggression is a fun and educational video primer into game theory and evolutionary trade-offs.
- Quantum TiqTaqToe: “In Quantum TiqTaqToe, the board collapses to a single classical state as soon as it is full (i.e. every square is non-empty). The resulting state is randomly chosen from all the possible outcomes, with a probability that is equal to the (square of the) wave-function amplitude (basic quantum mechanics).”
- A Short Hike
- Forgotten Anne
- Nodes: “What if programming was about ideas not semicolons? Compose, abstract, generalise. Start from top down or bottom up and refine as you go. With Nodes programming feels like sketching on canvas. Zoom in and out of problems, experiment on the side and easily re-use parts of other projects.”
- Ethical alternatives to Google Fonts
- Host yo self
- The Eye is “a non-profit, community driven site dedicated towards archiving and long-term preservation of any and all data including but by no means limited to... websites, books, games, software, video, sound, other digital-obscura and ideas.” There’s some incredible stuff here! Looking around in the books section, for example, I see a lot of stuff on Buddhism, some Goosebumps books, and various and sundry occult books!
- Full of Plants is a vegan recipe site. They look good; I think I’ll try some soon!