Causality, Partners, IKEA, T.S. Eliot, Perennials, Carlo Rovelli

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Engines Of Evidence

Judea Pearl | Edge | 24th October 2016

Discussion of causality and probability, and how perceptions of them compare in human and artificial intelligence. “I want to build machines that act as if they had a free will and which imagine that I have a free will so that we can communicate with each other as if we both have free will. This is an engineering question. The philosophy of non-determinism is irrelevant. The question that we should be asking is: What gives us the illusion, algorithmically, that we have free will?” (3,800 words)

Eight Women In Love

Shawn Wen | n+1 | 17th October 2016

Vignettes. Wives and mistresses of tyrants and revolutionaries. “The French police tracked Minh Khai for more than a decade, documenting her secret meetings, the messages she delivered in three different languages. Supposedly she was tortured and beaten after her second arrest, but gave up no information. Supposedly she wrote a poem in her own blood on the prison walls. The road ahead is strewn with thorns. Supposedly she died screaming. Streets in Vietnam now bear her name” (2,880 words)

The Evolutionary Economics Of Ikea

Oliver Roeder | Five Thirty Eight | 21st October 2016

IKEA dominates the world furniture market, consumes 1% of the world’s timber, and has no serious competitors. How did it get there? By chanelling Darwin. Compare IKEA catalogues over the years and you see evolution at work. Products hold their place only if they achieve the scale needed for their cost of manufacture to fall sharply. This is survival of the fittest for furniture. The Poäng chair was introduced three decades ago at the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $300; now it costs $79. (1,270 words)

What To Make Of T. S. Eliot?

Garrick Davis | Humanities | 24th October 2016

Eliot “laboured ferociously” throughout his life to to keep his passions hidden and his exterior unruffled. Fifty years after his death, thanks mainly to the belated publication of his letters and of a full critical edition of his poems, we are starting to glimpse Eliot’s inner and private lives, and to understand better his art. The “most bank-clerky of all bank clerks”, as Aldous Huxley called him, was, in truth, “more like the scandal-plagued Lord Byron than we could possibly imagine” (3,400 words)

Meet The Perennials

Gina Pell | Shift | 19th October 2016

Enough with Baby Boomers, with Millenials, with generations in general. Age may nudge us one way or another, but it need never define us. Let’s say that we are “people of all ages who know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages”. We “get involved, stay curious, and know how to hustle”. We are “an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic”. All we need is a name. We are The Perennials (846 words)

Reality Is Not What It Seems

Michael Brooks | New Statesman | 21st October 2016

Entertaining review of Carlo Rovelli’s Reality Is Not What It Seems, about the struggle among physicists to reconcile relativity with quantum mechanics. “A university student attending lectures on general relativity in the morning, and others on quantum mechanics in the afternoon, might be forgiven for concluding that his professors are fools, or that they haven’t talked to each other for at least a century”. Rovelli thinks, implausibly, that his own theory of quantum gravity is the answer (1,400 words)

Video of the day: Civil Disobedience

What to expect:

A just society has fair laws. But most societies aren’t just. What can you do? Radio 4 animation, narrated by Stephen Fry

Thought for the day

Faith is what someone knows to be true, whether they believe it or not
Flannery O'Connor

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