Monday, January 20, 2020

Read Out Loud

Eugene and I read out the poems of one of our loyal listeners. He was a prodigy of Allen Ginsberg. He's been writing for thre edecades. We talk about some of Robert Altmans work. We go all over the place and we hope you think this is a great episode!
#newhollywood #robertaltman #filmnoir #allenginsberg #poetry

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Way Back Machine

I was going through my photos and I found this great picture of musician Steve Rosen from April 2016. We interviewed Steve on our November podcast called All Aboard. Here...

Saturday, January 18, 2020

At The Club


Great List!

WHAT SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYBODY'S COGNITIVE TOOLKIT?

(I orginally had this as a draft in April 2012...I was going through old posts and am posting this now...)

The term 'scientific"is to be understood in a broad sense as the most reliable way of gaining knowledge about anything, whether it be the human spirit, the role of greatpeople in history, or the structure of DNA. A "scientific concept" may come fromphilosophy, logic, economics, jurisprudence, or other analytic enterprises, as long as itis a rigorous conceptual tool that may be summed up succinctly (or "in a phrase") buthas broad application to understanding the world.
[Thanks to Steven Pinker for suggesting this year's Edge Question and to DanielKahneman for advice on its presentation.]

158 CONTRIBUTORS
(109,600 words):Richard Thaler,Brian Eno,J. CraigVenter,Martin Rees, Mahzarin Banaji,V.S. Ramachandran,Stefano Boeri,NigelGoldenfeld,Gary Marcus,Andrew Revkin,Stuart Firestein,Beatrice Golomb,DianeHalpern,Kevin Hand,Barry Smith,Kevin Hand,Garrett Lisi,David Dalrymple,XeniJardin,Seth Lloyd,Brian Knutson,Carl Page,Victoria Stodden,David Rowan,HazelRose Markus & Alana Conner,Fiery Cushman,David Eagleman,Joan Chiao,MaxTegmark,Tecumseh Fitch,Joshua Greene,Stephon Alexander,Gregory Cochran,TorNorretranders,Laurence Smith,Carl Zimmer,Roger Highfield,Marcelo Gleiser,Richard Saul Wurman,Anthony Aguirre,Sam Harris, P.Z. Myers,Sue Blackmore,Bart Kosko,David Buss,John Tooby,Eduardo Salcedo-Albaran,Paul Bloom,Evgeny Morozov,Mark Pagel,Kathryn Schulz,Ernst Pöppel,Tania Lombrozo,PaulSaffo,Jay Rosen,Timothy Taylor,Jonah Lehrer,Marco Iacoboni,Dave Winer,George Church,Kai Krause,Gloria Origgi,Tom Standage,Vinod Khosla,DanSperber,Geoffrey Miller,Satyajit Das,Alun Anderson,Eric Topol,Amanda Gefter,Scott D. Sampson,John McWhorter,Jon Kleinberg,Christine Finn,Nick Bostrom,Robert Sapolsky,Adam Alter,Ross Anderson,Paul Kedrosky,Mark Henderson,Thomas A. Bass,Gerald Smallberg,James Croak,Greg Paul,Susan Fiske,MartiHearst,Keith Devlin,Gerd Gigerenzer,Matt Ridley,Andrian Kreye,Don Tapscott,David Gelernter,Linda Stone,Matthew Ritchie,Joel Gold,Helen Fisher,GiulioBoccaletti,Daniel Goleman,Donald Hoffman,Richard Foreman,Lee Smolin,Thomas Metzinger,Lawrence Krauss,William Calvin,Nicholas Christakis,AlisonGopnik,Kevin Kelly,Clay Shirky,Andy Clark,Neil Gershenfeld,Jonathan Haidt,Marcel Kinsbourne,Douglas Rushkoff ,Lisa Randall,Frank Wilczek,Jaron Lanier,Jennifer Jacquet,Daniel Dennett,Stephen M. Kosslyn,Carlo Rovelli,Juan Enriquez,Terrence Sejnowski,Irene Pepperberg,Michael Shermer,Samuel Arbesman,DouglasKenrick,James O'Donnell,David G. Myers,Rob Kurzban,Richard Nisbett,SamuelBarondes,Hans Ulrich Obrist,Nicholas Carr,Emanuel Derman,Aubrey De Grey,Nassim Taleb,Rebecca Goldstein,Clifford Pickover,Charles Seife, Rudy Rucker,Sean Carroll,Gino Segre,Jason Zweig,Dylan Evans,Steven Pinker,MartinSeligman,Gerald Holton,Robert Provine,Roger Schank,George Dyson,MilfordWolpoff ,George Lakoff ,Nicholas Humphrey, Christian Keysers,Haim Harari,W.Daniel Hillis,John Allen Paulos,Bruce Hood,Howard Gardner


1
HOWARD GARDNER

Psychologist, Harvard University; Author,
Truth, Beauty, And GoodnessReframed: Educating For The Virtues In The 21St Century
"How Would You Disprove Your Viewpoint?!"
Thanks to Karl Popper, we have a simple and powerful tool: the phrase "HowWould You Disprove Your Viewpoint?!"In a democratic and demotic society like ours, the biggest challenge to scientificthinking is the tendency to embrace views on the basis of faith or of ideology. Amajority of Americans doubt evolution because it goes against their religiousteachings; and at least a sizeable minority are skeptical about global warming —or more precisely, the human contributions to global change — because efforts tocounter climate change would tamper with the 'free market'.Popper popularized the notion that a claim is scientific only to the extent that itcan be disproved — and that science works through perpetual efforts to disproveclaims.If American citizens, or, for that matter, citizens anywhere were motivated todecribe the conditions under which they would relinquish their beliefs, theywould begin to think scientifically. And if they admitted that empirical evidencewould not change their minds, then at least they'd have indicated that their viewshave a religious or an ideological, rather than a scientific basis.

BRUCE HOOD
Director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre in the ExperimentalPsychology Department at the University of Bristol; Author,
Supersense

Haecceity

Understanding the concept of haecceity would improve everybody's cognitivetoolkit because it succinctly captures most people's intuitions about authenticitythat are increasingly threatened by the development of new technologies.Cloning, genetic modification and even digital reproduction are some examplesof new innovations that alarm many members of the public because they appearto violate a belief in the integrity of objectsHaecceity is originally a metaphysical concept that is both totally obscure and yetvery familiar to all of us. It is the psychological attribution of an unobservableproperty to an object that makes it unique among identical copies. All objectsmay be categorized into groups on the basis of some shared property but anobject within a category is unique by virtual of its haecceity. It is haecceity thatmakes your wedding ring authentic and your spouse irreplaceable, even thoughsuch things could be copied exactly in a futuristic science fiction world wherematter duplication had been solved


2Haecceity also explains why you can gradually replace every atom in an object sothat it not longer contains any of the original material and yet psychologically, weconsider it to be the same object. That transformation can be total but so long as ithas been gradual, we consider it to be the same thing. It is haecceity that enablesus to accept restoration of valuable works of art and antiquities as a continuousprocess of rejuvenation. Even when we discover that we replace most of thecellular structures of our bodies every couple of decades, haecceity enables us toconsider the continuity of our own unique self.Haecceity is an intellectually challenging concept attributable to the medievalScottish philosopher, John Duns Scotus, who ironically is also the origin of theterm for the intellectually challenged, "dunces." Duns Scotus coined haecceity toaddress the confusion in Greek metaphysics between the invisible property thatdefines the individual, as opposed to "quiddity" which is the unique property thatdefines the group.Today, both haecceity and quiddity have been subsumed under the morerecognizable term, "essentialism." Richard Dawkins has recently calledessentialism, "the dead hand of Plato," because, as he points out, a intuitive belief in distinct identities is a major impediment to accepting the reality that all diverselife forms have a common biological ancestry. However drawing the distinctionwithin essentialism is important. For example, it is probably intuitive quidditythat makes some people unhappy about genetic modification because they seethis as a violation of integrity of the species as a group. On the other hand it isintuitive haecceity that forms our barrier to cloning, where the authenticity of theindividual is compromised.By reintroducing haecceity as a scientific concept, albeit one that captures apsychological construct, we can avoid the confusion over using the lessconstrained term of essentialism that is applied to hidden properties that defineboth the group and the individual identity. It also provides a term for that gutfeeling that many of us have when the identity and integrity of objects we valueare threatened and we can't find the word for describing our concerns.

JOHN ALLEN PAULOS
Professor of Mathematics, Temple University, Philadelphia; Author,
Irreligion: AMathematician Explains Why the Arguments ofr God Just Don't Add Up

A Probability Distribution

The notion of a probability distribution would, I think, be a most useful additionto the intellectual toolkits of most people.Most quantities of interest, most projections, most numerical assessments are notpoint estimates. Rather they are rough distributions — not always normal,sometimes bi-modal, sometimes exponential, sometimes something else.Related ideas of mean, median, and variance are also important, of course, but the


3simple notion of a distribution implicitly suggests these and weans people fromthe illusion that certainty and precise numerical answers are always attainable.

W. DANIEL HILLIS
Physicist, Computer Scientist; Chairman, Applied Minds, Inc.; Author,
The Pattern on the Stone

Possibility Spaces: Thinking Beyond Cause and Effect

One of the most widely-useful (but not widely-understood) scientific concepts isthat of a possibility space. This is a way of thinking precisely about complexsituations. Possibility spaces can be difficult to get your head around, but onceyou learn how to use them, they are a very powerful way to reason, because theyallow you to sidestep thinking about causes and effects.As an example of how a possibility space can help answer questions, I will use"the Monty Hall problem," which many people find confusing using our normaltools of thought. Here is the setup: A game-show host presents a guest with achoice of items hidden behind three curtains. Behind one is a valuable prize;behind the other two are disappointing duds. After the guest has made an initialchoice, the host reveals what is behind one of the un-chosen curtains, showingthat it would have been a dud. The guest is then offered the opportunity to changetheir mind. Should they change or stick with their original decision?Plausible-sounding arguments can be made for different answers. For instance,one might argue that it does not matter whether the guest switches or not, sincenothing has changed the probability that the original choice is correct. Sucharguments can be very convincing, even when they are wrong. The possibilityspace approach, on the other hand, allows us skip reasoning about complex ideaslike probabilities and what causes change. Instead, we use a kind of systematicbookkeeping that leads us directly to the answer. The trick is just to be careful tokeep track of all of the possibilities.One of the best ways to generate all the possibilities is to find a set of independent pieces of information that tell you everything you could possiblyneed to know about what could happen. For example, in the case of the MontyHall problem, it would be sufficient to know what choice the guests is going tomake, whether the host will reveal the leftmost or rightmost dud, and where theprize is located. Knowing these three pieces of information would allow you topredict exactly what is going to happen. It is also important that these three piecesof information are completely independent, in the sense that knowing one of themtells you nothing about any of the others. The possibility space is constructed bycreating every possible combination of these three unknowns.In this case, the possibility space is three-dimensional, because there are threeunknowns. Since there are three possible initial choices for the guest, two dudoptions for the host, and three possible locations for the prize, there are initially3x2x3=18 possibilities in the space. (One might reasonably ask why we don't just call this a possibility table. In this simple case, we could. But, scientists generallywork with possibility spaces that contain an infinity of possibilities in amultidimensional continuum, more like a kind of physical space space.) Thisparticular possibility space starts out as three-dimensional, but once the guestmakes their initial choice, twelve of the possibilities become impossible and itcollapses to two dimensions.Let's assume that the guest already knows what initial choice they are going tomake. In that case they could model the situation as a two-dimensional possibilityspace, one representing the location of the prize, the other representing whetherthe host will reveal the rightmost or leftmost dud. In this case, the first dimensionindicates which curtain hides the prize (1, 2 or 3), and the second represents thearbitrary choice of the host (left dud or right dud), so there are six points in thespace, representing the six possibilities of reality. Another way to say this is thatthe guest can deduce that they may be living in one of six equally-possibleworlds. By listing them all, they will see that in four of these six, it is to theiradvantage to switch from their initial choice.Host reveals left dud Host reveals right dudPrize is behind 1 2 revealed, better tostick3 revealed, better to stickPrize is behind 2 3 revealed, better toswitch3 revealed, better to switchPrize is Behind 3 2 revealed, better toswitch2 revealed, better to switch
Example of a two-dimensional possibility space, when guest's initial Choiceis 1

After the host makes his revelation, half of these possibilities become impossible,and the space collapses to three possibilities. It will still be true that in two out of three of these possible worlds it is to the guest's advantage to switch. (In fact, thiswas even true of the original three-dimensional possibility space, before the guestmade their initial choice.)This is a particularly simple example of a possibility space where it is practical tolist all the possibilities in a table, but the concept is far more general. In fact oneway of looking at quantum mechanics is that reality actually consists of apossibility space, with Schrödinger's equation assigning a probability to eachpossibility. This allows quantum mechanics to explain phenomena that areimpossible to account for in terms of causes and effects. Even in normal life,possibility spaces give us a reliable way the solve problems when our normalmethods of reasoning seem to give contradictory or paradoxical answers. As Sherlock Holmes would say, "Once you eliminate the impossible, whateverremains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.

HAIM HARARI
Physicist, former President, Weizmann Institute of Science; Author,
A View fromthe Eye of the Storm
The Edge of the Circle

My concept is important, useful, scientific and very appropriate for "Edge", but it does not exist. It is: The Edge of the Circle.We know that a circle has no edge, and we also know that, when you travel on acircle far enough to the right or to the left, you reach the same place. Today'sworld is gradually moving towards extremism in almost every area: Politics, law,religion, economics, education, ethics, you name it. This is probably due to thebrevity of messages, the huge amounts of information flooding us, the timepressure to respond before you think and the electronic means (Twitter, textmessages) which impose superficiality. Only extremist messages can be fullyconveyed in one sentence.In this world, it often appears that there are two corners of extremism: Atheismand religious fanaticism; Far right and far left in politics; Suffocatingbureaucratic detailed regulatory rules or a complete laissez faire; No ethicalrestrictions in Biology research and absolute restrictions imposed by religion; onecan continue with dozens of examples.But, in reality, the extremists in the two edges always end up in the same place.Hitler and Stalin both murdered millions, and signed a friendship pact. Far leftsecular atheist demonstrators in the western world, including gays and feminists,support Islamic religious fanatics who treat women and gays as low animals. Ithas always been known that no income tax and 100% income tax yield the sameresult: no tax collected at all, as shown by the famous Laffer curve. This is theultimate meeting point of the extremist supporters of tax increase and taxreduction.Societies, preaching for absolute equality among their citizens, always end upwith the largest economic gaps. Fanatic extremist proponents of developing onlyrenewable energy sources, with no nuclear power, delay or prevent acceptableinterim solutions to global energy issues, just as much as the oil producers.Misuse of animals in biology research is as damaging as the objections of fanaticanimal right groups. One can go on and on with illustrations, which are morevisible now than they were a decade or two ago. We live on the verge of an ageof extremism.So, the edge of the circle is the place where all of these extremists meet, live andpreach. The military doctor who refuses to obey orders "because Obama was bornin Africa" and the army doctor, who murdered 12 people in Texas, are both at theedge of the circle.If you are a sensible moderate thinking person, open any newspaper and see howmany times you will read news items or editorials, which will lead you to say:

"Wow, these people are really at the edge of the circle" ...

CHRISTIAN KEYSERS

Neuroscientist; Scientific Director, Neuroimaging Center, University MedicalCenter Groningen

The Mirror Fallacy

With the discovery of mirror neurons and similar systems in humans,neuroscience has shown us that when we see the actions, sensations and emotionsof others, we activate brain regions as if we were doing similar actions, weretouched in similar ways or made similar facial expressions. In short, our brainmirrors the states of the people we observe. Intuitively, we have the impressionthat while we mirror, we feel what is going on in the person we observe. Weempathize with him or her.When the person we see has the exact same body and brain as we do, mirroringwould tell us what the other feels. Whenever the other person is different in somerelevant way, however, mirroring will mislead us. Imagine a masochist receivinga whiplash. Your mirror system might make you feel his pain — because youwould feel pain in his stead. What he actually feels though is pleasure. Youcommitted the mirror fallacy of incorrectly feeling that he would have felt whatyou would have felt — not what he actually felt.The world is full of such fallacies: we feel dolphins are happy just because theirface resembles ours while we smile or we attribute pain to robots in sci-fi movies.We feel an audience is Japan failed to like a presentation we gave because theirpoise would be our boredom. Labeling them, and realizing that the way weinterpret the social world is through projection might help us reappraise thesesituations and beware.

NICHOLAS HUMPHREY
Psychologist, London School of Economics; Author,
Soul Dust
The "Multiverse"

The scientific concept of the "multiverse" has already entered popularimagination. But the full implications of the idea that every possible universe hasbeen and will be actualised have yet to sink in. One of these, which could domore to change our view of things than anything is that we are all destined to beimmortal.This welcome news (if indeed it is welcome) follows on two quite differentgrounds. First, death normally occurs to human bodies in due time either as theresult of some kind of macro-accident — for example a car crash, or a homicide;or a micro-one — a heart attack, a stroke; or, if those don't get us, a nano-one —accidental errors in cell division, cancer, old age. Yet, in the multiverse, whereevery alternative is realised, the wonderful truth is that there has to be at least one particular universe in which by sheer luck each of us as individuals have escapedany and all of these blows.Second, we live in a world where scientists are, in any case, actively searchingfor ways of combatting all such accidents: seat belts to protect us in the crash,aspirin to prevent stroke, red wine oxidants to counter heart attacks, antibioticsagainst disease. And in one or more of the possible universes to come thesemeasures will surely have succeeded in making continuing life rather than deaththe natural thing.Taking these possibilities — nay certainties — together, we can reasonablyconclude that there will surely be at least one universe in which I — and you —will still find ourselves living in a thousand years, or a million years time.Then, when we get there, should we, the ultimate survivors, the one in a trillionchancers, mourn our alter-egos who never made it? No, probably no more thanwe do now. We are already, as individuals, statistically so improbable as to be aseeming miracle. Having made it so far, shouldn't we look forward to more of the same?

This essay is a couple hundred pages long....but very fun and inspiring. Here is a link to the rest of the scientific concepts

Local Post Office

Friday, January 17, 2020

Candy On The Beach

From May 2013. I was going through some of my drafts that I never published.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The McCarthy Corpus Project

This website is a bit of fun. McCarthy Corpus. We saw them introduce this idea publically in Memphis 2015