Politicians, Germany, Extinction, Truth, Matchboxes

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Selecting For Inadequates

Chris Dillow | Stumbling And Mumbling | 15th November 2017

Why doesn’t society arrange for the very smartest people go into politics, and get rewarded commensurately for doing so? “Politics has always been a profession where one can succeed through luck as well as merit, and so attracts overconfident second-raters. But there might be other things at work. The point is that we should not just decry the mediocrity of our political leaders, but ask what mechanisms give us such inadequates? And how, if at all, can these be changed?” (678 words)

It’s The Kultur, Stupid

Timothy Garton Ash | New York Review Of Books | 17th November 2017

Germany’s resurgent right-wing populism resembles its British and American counterparts in its rhetoric and scapegoating. But its social profile is noticeably different. Economic factors play only a small part. Germany is prosperous, and so are most of those defecting from the conservative CDU to the far-right AfD — they are doctors, businessmen, lawyers and academics. “This strong presence of the educated upper middle class distinguishes German populism from many other populisms” (4,446 words)

When Will The Earth Try To Kill Us again?

Howard Lee | Ars Technica | 9th November 2017

Asteroids have loomed large among our existential fears since scientists concluded that dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid that hit the Earth 60 million years ago filling the sky with debris that shut out the sun’s light and heat. But of five known mass extinction events since the dawn of animal life, four have been triggered by vast volcanic eruption. Fear volcanos. “Volcanism has coincided with most, if not all, mass extinctions. It looks suspiciously like a serial killer” (3,700 words)

Consolations And Truth

Hugh Reynolds | 3AM | 11th November 2017

Philosopher Julian Baggini talks about the nature of truth and the virtues of scepticism. “We have a staggering arrogance in our own belief. No matter what the debate is, very few people have the modesty to suspend judgment on a whole range of things. It would be good if we were encouraged to have fewer opinions. To be more willing to say ‘I just don’t know’. Sure, sometimes you have to come down one way or another for practical matters – but being aware that that’s the case is enough” (5,800 words)

Matchbox Learning Explained

Rodney Brooks | 28th August 2017

Ex-Bletchley codebreaker Donald Michie built a primitive mechanism using 304 matchboxes filled with buttons which could be logically organised to beat a human at tic-tac-toe. “Many of the problems that it faced are still relevant to machine learning algorithms today, and it shares many characteristics with almost all of today’s machine learning. Due to its simplicity it can be described in complete detail and no mathematics is needed to get a strong intuitive understanding of how it works” (13,500 words)

Video of the day Goodbye Uncanny Valley

What to expect:

Survey of the state of the art in computer graphics, which can now simulate almost anything perfectly (14’38”)

Thought for the day

Be the first to not do what nobody has ever thought of not doing before
Brian Eno

Podcast of the day The Logic Of Military Coups | Lawfare

Naunihal Singh of the Naval War College on events in Zimbabwe and coups in general

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