Pleasure, Bill Clinton, Code, Ruins, Free Will

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Unforbidden Pleasures

Adam Phillips & Ileene Smith | Work In Progress | 18th May 2016

We undervalue pleasures which are easily available to us — walking outside on a sunny day, talking with friends — because we feel that there must be greater pleasures which are forbidden to us. A Freudian would see here a long shadow cast by forbidden incestuous desire. But it may simply be that we are not very good at recognising and yielding to happiness when we have it, so we conclude that true happiness must lie somewhere else from which we are excluded (1,000 words)

Bill Clinton’s Big Moment

Jason Zengerle | GQ | 18th May 2016

“There are flashes of greatness”, but no longer does Bill Clinton risk overshadowing his wife. Stumping in South Carolina his hands tremble, his mouth hangs open, he rambles. “His hair, which long ago had gone white, was now as thin and downy as a gosling’s feathers, and his eyes, no longer cornflower blue but now a dull gray, were anchored by bags so dark it looked like he’d been in a fight. He is not a young man anymore — he’ll turn 70 in August — but on this afternoon, he looked ancient” (6,950 words)

Soon We Will Train Computers Like Dogs

Jason Tanz | Wired | 17th May 2016

That advice about teaching your children to code if you want them to have a job: It’s out of date. By the time your children grow up, computers and robots will learn new tasks by repetition, much as a dog learns tricks. Some coders will still be needed for the learning software, but far fewer than to write programs for every task. This isn’t artificial intelligence, which is still speculative; it’s machine learning, by way of neural networks, already used to power speech recognition (2,900 words)

Life In Ruins

Mary Beard | Times Literary Supplement | 18th May 2016

How buildings end. James Crawford’s Fallen Glory tells twenty tales of ruin and destruction from ancient Babylon to present-day New York. Genteel ruin is a building’s version of happy old age. The life’s work is done; let future generations admire and enjoy. Intentional destruction, by contrast, is the fate of buildings that are hated — brutalist public housing, hated at close quarters; the World Trade Center, hated at a distance. Reconstruction is philosophically troubling, like life after death (1,950 words)

Free Will

Stephen Cave | Atlantic | 18th May 2016

When a person thinks they are choosing to move a limb, related electrical activity in the brain has already occurred. “The conscious experience of deciding to act, which we usually associate with free will, appears to be an add-on”. Philosophers and theologians argue that brain and mind, not to mention soul, are different things. Even so, advances in neuroscience are weakening our instinctive belief in free will. “Determinism, to one degree or another, is gaining popular currency” (3,700 words)

Video of the day: How To Buy A Used Car

What to expect:

I’ve bowdlerised the title a tiny bit. Per Kottke, “an astounding amount of good information (3’27”)

Thought for the day

I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you
Friedrich Nietzsche

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