Computation, Israel, Photography, Gerrymandering, Evonomics, Property

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How Nature Solves Problems

Joshua Sokol | Quanta | 6th July 2017

Evolutionary biologist Jessica Flack explains collective computation. “All systems are about extracting energy and doing work. When you move to adaptive systems, you’ve got the additional influence of information processing, which we think allows a system to extract energy more efficiently even though it has to expend a little extra energy to do the information processing. Components of adaptive systems look out at the world, and they try to discover the regularities. It’s a noisy process” (2,200 words)

What Makes A Jew A Jew?

David Mikics | LARB | 1st July 2017

The Bible says that God and Moses invented the Jewish people. Tacitus says the Jews were a colony of lepers who fled Egypt. One modern theory holds that the Israelites became a distinct people in the 12th century BCE, when “great numbers of Canaanites began moving to small hilltop settlements and stopped eating pork”. But why did some Canaanites head for the hills? One possibility is that they wanted to distance themselves from the Philistines, who arrived in Canaan around that time (1,900 words)

The Morals Of Vision

Darren Campion | 13th June 2017

Revisiting Susan Sontag’s On Photography, which purports to expose the limitations of photography, but in fact exposes the limitations of Sontag’s understanding of photography. “Her view of the medium is defined by an anxiety about how it imposes a loss of depth and complexity on the world. It appears that, for Sontag, the practice of photography represents a foreclosure of social, aesthetic and even moral possibilities because of the way it depends on a facile duplication of reality” (2,600 words)

A Primer On Gerrymandering

Fred Dews | Brookings | 6th July 2017

Americans are sorting themselves into opposing camps, with or without the redrawing of congressional district boundaries. “Because people increasingly prefer to live near others who share their cultural and political preferences, they are voting with their feet and sorting themselves geographically. Many more states and counties are dominated by one-party supermajorities than in the past. Reducing the gerrymandering of congressional districts would make only a small dent in the problem” (1,850 words)

It Takes A Theory To Beat A Theory

Andrew Lo | Evonomics | 7th July 2017

“Financial markets don’t follow economic laws. Financial markets are a product of human evolution, and follow biological laws instead. The same basic principles that determine the life history of a herd of antelope also apply to the banking industry. We aren’t rational actors with a few quirks in our behavior — instead, our brains are collections of quirks. These quirks are the products of brain structures whose main purpose isn’t economic rationality, but survival” (3,200 words)

Property Is Another Name for Monopoly

Thought-experiment. Could a society optimise the allocation of assets by weakening property rights? “The existing system of private property interferes with allocative efficiency by giving owners the power to hold out for excessive prices. We propose a remedy in the form of a tax on property, based on the value self-assessed by its owner at intervals, along with a requirement that the owner sell the property to any third party willing to pay a price equal to the self-assessed value” (33,350 words)

Video of the day: SigGraph 2017 Trailer

What to expect:

Show reel for the forthcoming SigGraph Computer Animation Festival (2’00”)

Thought for the day

Poetry makes nothing happen
W.H. Auden

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