Jim Steinman, Fax, Dreams, Game Theory, Numbers

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The Man Behind Meat Loaf

Corey Atad | Hazlitt | 19th October 2017

In praise of Jim Steinman, writer of thrillingly over-engineered rock anthems including Bat Out Of Hell for Meatloaf. “It sounded as if Phil Spector and Richard Wagner were making records together. Steinman’s idea was to write a car crash song, inspired by the songs of the fifties and sixties, but one that would blow the rest out of the water. He wanted a crash song so huge, so spectacular, so violent and operatic as to render the genre practically obsolete. Nobody would be able to top it” (3,200 words)

The Fax Of Life

Sarah Kliff | Vox | 30th October 2017

Why does American medicine still run on fax machines, abandoned by most other industries twenty years ago? Fax still accounts “about 75 percent of all medical communication”, even though the Obama administration earmarked $30 billion for encouraging doctors to use digital records. The answer seems to be that doctors and healthcare institutions actively dislike making medical records shareable, for fear that doing so would make it easier for patients to change providers (2,600 words)

A Theory Of Dreams

Nostalgebraist | Trees Are Harlequins | 10th October 2017

Advances in artificial intelligence suggest a new theory of dreams. “In experience replay, instead of learning from each experience as it happens, an AI will build up a buffer of past experiences, and at some regular interval will learn from a random selection of those experiences, presented in no particular order. This deals with the problem that successive experiences tend to be correlated”. Thus, perhaps, in dreams, humans reshuffle recent experience to see what possibilities emerge (1,110 words)

Computers And Tribalism

Simon Dedeo | Nautilus | 14th September 2017

Pitting multiple computers against one another in a game of Prisoner’s Dilemma produces a daunting model. “After an early, chaotic period, a single machine would rise rapidly to dominance, taking over its imaginary world for hundreds of generations until, just as suddenly, it collapsed, sending the world into a chaos of conflict out of which the next cycle arose. An archaeologist of such a world would have encountered thick layers of prosperity alternating with eras of ash and bone” (2,000 words)

The Nature Of Numbers

Philip Ball | Aeon | 26th October 2017

Did human beings invent numbers, or do numbers exist in Nature? This must remain a philosophical question, since we cannot conduct an experiment without humans to discover whether numbers still exist. But probably we exaggerate the place of numbers in the Universe. What mattered before modern times was not number, but quantity; a lot or a little. Even now, we rarely add much with our “pedantic distinction between 1,000,002 and 1,000,003” (4,000 words)

Video of the day The Mechanics Of History

What to expect:

Modern dance with trampoline. Choreography by Yoann Bourgeois. Performed at the Panthéon in Paris (2’41”)

Thought for the day

Of course I believe in luck. How else does one explain the success of one’s enemies?
Jean Cocteau

Podcast of the day The Why Behind The Weird | a16z

Economic historian Peter Leeson talks to Hanne Tidnam about the rational underpinnings of superstition and ritual

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