Interesting Stuff: October 16th 2017

Beware Isolated Demands for Rigour. SSC on Intellectual Dishonesty

A Vet Remembers: To many of us there, the war was the best time of our lives, almost the only time. We loved it because in those days we were alive, life was intense, the pungent hours passed fast over the central event of the age and the howling jets appeased the terrible boredom of existence. Psychologists, high priests of the mean, say that boredom is a symptom of maladjustment; maybe, but boredom has been around longer than psychologists have.

Play on Hard ModeThe key idea of Hard Mode is to keep your eyes on the prize. You know exactly what you want. You can’t munchkin your way to getting it. Once you start aiming to make a number go up, or get a check in the right box, you have lost sight of the thing you actually want. Proxy measures lead to failure; your value is fragile. That number correlates to what you want, but only insofar as you’re aiming for the goal and not the number. If you break the spirit of the exercise, all is lost. Your values have been hijacked. If you fail to develop skills along the way, you have missed the point, because the game has no end.

Mao ReconsideredWhen Mao stepped onto the world stage in 1945, Russia had taken Mongolia and a piece of Xinjiang, Japan occupied three northern provinces, Britain had taken Hong Kong, Portugal Macau, France pieces of Shanghai, Germany Tsingtao, the U.S. shared their immunities and the nation was convulsed by civil war. China was agrarian, backward, feudalistic, ignorant and violent. Of its four hundred million people, fifty million were drug addicts, eighty percent could neither read nor write and their life expectancy was thirty-five years. The Japanese had killed twenty million and General Chiang Kai-Shek complained that, of every thousand youths he recruited, barely a hundred survived the march to their training base. Women’s feet were bound, peasants paid seventy percent of their produce in rent, desperate mothers sold their children in exchange for food and poor people sold themselves, preferring slavery to starvation. U.S. Ambassador John Leighton Stuart reported that, during his second year there, ten million people starved to death in three provinces.

When he stepped down in 1974 the invaders, bandits and warlords were gone, the population had doubled, literacy was 84 percent, wealth disparity had disappeared, electricity reached poor areas, infrastructure was restored, the economy had grown 500 percent, drug addiction was a memory, women were liberated, girls were educated, crime was rare, everyone had food and shelter, life expectancy was sixty-seven and, by several key social and demographic indicators, China compared favourably with middle income countries whose per capita GDP was five times greater.

The Tragic Failure of Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War”It’s the lack of accountability, the failure to prosecute those who lied to get us into the war, who encouraged battlefield tactics that resulted in the massacre of women and children, who authorized the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets, who drenched Vietnam in chemical poisons that will cause birth defects and death for generation.

There’s no fire alarm for AIOne of the major modes by which hindsight bias makes us feel that the past was more predictable than anyone was actually able to predict at the time, is that in hindsight we know what we ought to notice, and we fixate on only one thought as to what each piece of evidence indicates. If you look at what people actually say at the time, historically, they’ve usually got no clue what’s about to happen three months before it happens, because they don’t know which signs are which.

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