Fri Dec 30 23:14:56 EST 2022

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • The Sordid Saga of Hunter Biden's Laptop

    The most invasive data breach imaginable is a political scandal Democrats can't just wish away.

    Very long, sordid New York Magazine Intelligencer article about Hunter Biden. Many details you may not know if you don't view right-wing media.

    The first thing you need to understand about the Hunter Biden laptop, though, is that it's not a laptop. The FBI reportedly took possession of the original - at least if you accept the version of events promoted by those who have distributed the data, which Hunter Biden and his lawyers don't - and all we have now are copies of copies.

  • The toxic truth about sugar
    1. Sugar consumption is linked to a rise in non-communicable disease
    2. Sugar's effects on the body can be similar to those of alcohol
    3. Regulation could include tax, limiting sales during school hours and placing age limits on purchase

    Also somewhat related, Two conspiracy theories about cola:

    P.S. All sugary drinks are bad for you, don't drink them.

  • The rise and fall of peer review

    Why the greatest scientific experiment in history failed, and why that's a great thing.

    But science is a strong-link problem: progress depends on the quality of our best work. Better ideas don't always triumph immediately, but they do triumph eventually, because they're more useful. You can't land on the moon using Aristotle's physics, you can't turn mud into frogs using spontaneous generation, and you can't build bombs out of phlogiston. Newton's laws of physics stuck around; his recipe for the Philosophers's Stone didn't. We didn't need a scientific establishment to smother the wrong ideas. We needed it to let new ideas challenge old ones, and time did the rest.

    If you've got weak-link worries, I totally get it. If we let people say whatever they want, they will sometimes say untrue things, and that sounds scary. But we don't actually prevent people from saying untrue things right now; we just pretend to. In fact, right now we occasionally bless untrue things with big stickers that say "INSPECTED BY A FANCY JOURNAL," and those stickers are very hard to get off. That's way scarier.

  • Investigating Nonhuman Consciousness

    Video of panalists Susan Schneider and Jonathan Birch presentations at the NYU Mind, Ethics, and Policy Program, Dec 7, 2022.

  • OpenAI ChatGPT

    Get a free account to use OpenAI ChatGPT, the latest AI fascination.
    Note, it requires a non-voip phone number to verify a user.

    For some commentary about it, see Autocomplete: Coming to terms with our new textual culture.

  • History is in the making

    An understanding of the past in which not just our intellectual successes but our technological breakthroughs occupy pride of place would be very different from the political one that dominates now. Instead of politics and war, and the growth, rise, and decline of states and empires being the focus, the central story would rather be one of human cooperation and inventiveness, innovation and scientific and technological progress and discovery, and the improvement in human well-being than the deeds (often diabolical) of those with power.
    ...
    If it is the case that human ingenuity solving problems is the most potent force in history, why do so many still fixate upon politics, wars, and revolutions?

  • Fusion reactors: Not what they're cracked up to be

    Daniel Jassby | April 19, 2017

    Conclusion:

    The harsh realities of fusion belie the claims of its proponents of "unlimited, clean, safe and cheap energy." Terrestrial fusion energy is not the ideal energy source extolled by its boosters, but to the contrary: It's something to be shunned.

  • There Are No Laws of Physics. There's Only the Landscape.

    Scientists seek a single description of reality. But modern physics allows for many different descriptions, many equivalent to one another, connected through a vast landscape of mathematical possibility.

    A more dramatic conclusion is that all traditional descriptions of fundamental physics have to be thrown out. Particles, fields, forces, symmetries - they are all just artifacts of a simple existence at the outposts in this vast landscape of impenetrable complexity. Thinking of physics in terms of elementary building blocks appears to be wrong, or at least of limited reach. Perhaps there is a radical new framework uniting the fundamental laws of nature that disregards all the familiar concepts. The mathematical intricacies and consistencies of string theory are a strong motivation for this dramatic point of view. But we have to be honest. Very few current ideas about what replaces particles and fields are "crazy enough to be true," to quote Niels Bohr.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Wed Nov 30 17:06:55 EST 2022

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • Effective altruism solved all the problems of capitalism - until it didn't

    What if a movement designed to do the maximum good for the most people actually helped a few people get very rich?

    One method at the center of effective altruism (EA) urges its followers to make as much money as possible, so that they can devote a large part of their riches to helping humanity: an idea called "Earn to give."
    ...
    Not only does 'earn to give' ignore the problems at the heart of the prevailing economic system, it supercharges capitalism. It hints that capitalism isn't only the best way to live, or the only way to live, but also a just way to live.
    ...
    A conversation between MacAskill and Bankman-Fried is credited with propelling the FTX founder into his subsequent career in trading, and then cryptocurrency. MacAskill also worked for Bankman-Fried's charitable enterprises. After FTX's collapse, MacAskill tweeted that he "will have much to reflect on" if it turns out FTX misused funds.

  • Study urges caution when comparing neural networks to the brain

    Computing systems that appear to generate brain-like activity may be the result of researchers guiding them to a specific outcome.

    "What this suggests is that in order to obtain a result with grid cells, the researchers training the models needed to bake in those results with specific, biologically implausible implementation choices," says Rylan Schaeffer, a former senior research associate at MIT.

    Without those constraints, the MIT team found that very few neural networks generated grid-cell-like activity, suggesting that these models do not necessarily generate useful predictions of how the brain works.

  • How The Far Right Uses Religious and Ethnic Identity to Mobilize Voters

    If national conservatism means anything, it means fighting and winning the culture war. When you know that the majority of ordinary people really aren't woke and therefore it's relatively easy to peel them away from the left by pointing out the lunacies that the people on the left want them to believe: that there are 53 genders, that it's actually anti-racism systematically to discriminate against people on the basis of race, and so on ... It's the 2020s, and in the 2020s politics is about culture and that's how you get voters to turn away from the left."

  • Israel's Ascendant Far Right Can't Be Understood by Analogy

    Peter Beinart

    Ben-Gvir is different because Israel is different. In France, the US, Italy, and India, right-wing leaders are seeking-to varying degrees-to create ethnocracies, states that define themselves as belonging to a dominant ethnic, religious, or racial group. Their centrist opponents-to varying degrees-support legal equality for all citizens. This divide creates deep ideological polarization. But Israel is not deeply ideologically polarized. It's already an ethnocracy and no major political party wants to change that. That's what sets Ben-Gvir apart from figures like Trump and Le Pen: His rivalry with his centrist foes may be politically fierce, but it's not a contest over the basic definition of the state.

  • Competition between respiratory viruses may hold off a 'tripledemic' this winter

    Researchers say there is a growing body of evidence these viruses interfere with each other's spread.

    Untangling such interference hasn’t been easy given the number of respiratory viruses—coronaviruses, rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, RSV, and influenza are just among the best known—and the many infections that escape notice. Recent advances in technology, however, make it easier to detect infections in people and study how multiple viruses behave in the lab, in cell cultures or stem cell–derived tissues known as organoids. Increasingly, researchers are fingering a cause: chemical messengers that infected people produce called, fittingly, interferons.

  • What the "superforecasters" predict for major events in 2023

    The experts at Good Judgment weigh in on the coming year.

  • It’s not your imagination: Shopping on Amazon has gotten worse

    The Washington Post

    When you search for a product on Amazon, you may not realize that most of what you see at first is advertising. Amazon is betraying your trust in its results to make an extra buck.

  • Web3 Is Going Just Great

    NOT!

    Web3 is Going Just Great is a project to track some examples of how things in the blockchains/crypto/web3 technology space aren't actually going as well as its proponents might like you to believe. The timeline tracks events in cryptocurrency and blockchain-based technologies, dating back to the beginning of 2021.

  • Check Website Reputation

    Powered by Site Trustworthiness API

    Use this service to check the online reputation of a website. Check if a website is a scam, check if a website is legit and trusted by other users.

    Also see Norton Safe Web: Look up a site. Get our rating.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Mon Oct 31 22:16:46 EDT 2022

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently (although a couple are older).

  • Discovering That Denial of Paralysis Is Not Just a Problem of the Mind

    Sandra Blakeslee. The New York Times, August 2, 2005

    Dr. Anna Berti sits facing a patient whose paralyzed left arm rests in her lap next to her good right arm. "Can you raise your left arm?" Dr. Berti asks.
    "Yes," the patient says.
    The arm remains motionless. Dr. Berti tries again. "Are you raising your left arm?" she asks.
    "Yes," the patient says. But the arm still does not move.
    Dr. Berti, a neuroscientist at University of Turin in Italy, has had many such conversations with stroke patients who suffer from denial syndrome, a strange disorder in which paralyzed patients vehemently insist that they are not paralyzed.
    This denial, Dr. Berti said, was long thought to be purely a psychological problem. "It was a reaction to a stroke: I am paralyzed, it is so horrible, I will deny it," she said.
    But in a new study, Dr. Berti and her colleagues have shown that denial is not a problem of the mind. Rather, it is a neurological condition that occurs when specific brain regions are knocked out by a stroke.
    Patients deny the paralysis because a closely related region of the brain that is still intact appears to tell them that their bodies are responding normally.

  • Robots Are Really Bad At Folding Towels

    All Things Considered. May 19, 2015

    In other words, years of work from dedicated, smart researchers have produced a towel-folding robot that can't keep up with an average 8-year-old. This problem, Abbeel says, is not limited to towels.

  • Why Mastering Language Is So Difficult for AI

    Interview with Gary Marcus

    Marcus, who earned his Ph.D. in brain and cognitive sciences from MIT and is now a professor emeritus at New York University, says the field of AI has been over-reliant on deep learning, which he believes has inherent limitations. We'll get further, he says, by using not only deep learning but also more traditional symbol-based approaches to AI, in which computers encode human knowledge through symbolic representations (which in fact was the dominant approach during the early decades of AI research).
    ...
    Just as GPT-3 doesn't really understand language, merely memorizing a lot of traffic situations that you've seen doesn't convey what you really need to understand about the world in order to drive well. And so, what people have been trying to do is to collect more and more data. But they're only making small incremental progress doing that. And as you say, there aren't fleets of self-driving taxis in Toronto, and there certainly aren't fleets in Mumbai. Most of this work right now is done in places with good weather and reasonably organized traffic, that's not as chaotic. The current systems, if you put them in Mumbai, wouldn't even understand what a rickshaw is. So they'd be in real trouble, from square one.

    Also see Gary Marcus articles at Deep Learning Is Hitting a Wall and in Scientific American: Artificial General Intelligence Is Not as Imminent as You Might Think

  • The race to invent new particles is pointless

    Sabine Hossenfelder: but no one in physics dares say so

    It has become common among physicists to invent new particles for which there is no evidence, publish papers about them, write more papers about these particles’ properties, and demand the hypothesis be experimentally tested. Many of these tests have actually been done, and more are being commissioned as we speak. It is wasting time and money.
    ...
    But I believe the biggest contributor to this trend is a misunderstanding of Karl Popper’s philosophy of science, which, to make a long story short, demands that a good scientific idea has to be falsifiable. Particle physicists seem to have misconstrued this to mean that any falsifiable idea is also good science.

  • NYU Chemistry Professor Fired After Students Said His Class Was Too Hard

    According to The New York Times, 82 of Jones' 350 students signed the petition last spring; it alleged that too many of them were failing and that this was unacceptable. The students cited emotional and mental health complaints to make the case that Jones ought to make the class less difficult.
    ...
    The article does note that the petition never called for Jones to be fired. But the university evidently decided that the best way to resolve the situation was to turn him loose.

  • Nose-picking primates spark scientific quest

    In a study they published in the Journal of Zoology, the team found 12 examples of primates caught in the nose-picking act.
    ...
    One study encouraged additional research by suggesting that the ingestion of nasal mucus could play an important role for the immune system, because of the immune proteins in the mucus.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Fri Sep 30 22:45:43 EDT 2022

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • Our Ancestors Thought We'd Build an Economic Paradise. Instead We Got 2022

    J. Bradford Delong

    My crude guess is that there has been as much proportional technological progress-useful ideas discovered, developed, deployed, and then diffused throughout the global economy-making humanity more productive in the 150-year span since 1870 as there were in the entire nearly 10,000-year span since the beginnings of the creation of agriculture around the year 8000.
    ...
    But the Neoliberal Order entrenched itself in the Global North. But it failed to deliver on its own promises.

    • The Neoliberal Order did not restore the rapid growth of prosperity by reinvigorating entrepreneurship-rather, growth slowed further as the cult of short-term financial results undermined the ability of businesses and governments to make long-term mutually-reinforcing common-prosperity investments.
    • The Neoliberal Order did not properly distribute prosperity to the deserving and their just deserts to the undeserving-instead, rent-seeking strengthened among the plutocracy, to which kleptocracy added itself.
    • The Neoliberal Order did not restore moral order and solidity to Global North society-things continued to fall apart and the center held less. and less.

    The only one of its promises the Neoliberal Order in the Global North fulfilled was to greatly increase inequality of income and wealth. It led to plutocracy, tinged with kleptocracy.

  • Are Large Language Models Sentient?

    What we actually mean when we ask that question.

    This all strikes me as rather odd, mainly because the question of sentience is an unfalsifiable one. All the evidence in the world can't prove the presence or absence of it-making it a useless technical question to pose in the first place. It's fun for a philosophical faff at the ol' Parisian salon, sure, but not worthy of any serious energy. Especially not institutional energy.
    ...
    For the purposes of this discussion, we'll say sentience is the ability to "feel feelings". By that I mean the ability to have subjective experiences-or what philosophers might call "qualia".
    ...
    Our thought experiment with Mary showed us that the physics and the mental phenomena we experience are conceived as two separate things! Anything you learn about the physics and biology of how I tick won't tell you what I'm actually feeling underneath, or if I'm feeling anything at all.

  • Fact Check: Rep. Rashida Tlaib Said Progressives Must Oppose Israeli Apartheid

    Recent claims that Tlaib insisted progressives must reject Israel's right to exist have been examined and found to be misinformation.

    To test these claims, The Intercept identified and reviewed the comments in question. According to a video of Tlaib's remarks at a Palestine Advocacy Day event, she made the following assertion: "I want you all to know that among progressives, it becomes clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values yet back Israel's apartheid government."

    Tlaib does not say that in order to hold progressive values one must oppose Zionism or assert that Israel has no right to exist. The Intercept reached out to Greenblatt and Nadler for additional information that would support their claims but did not receive any.
    ...
    Tlaib explicitly refers to "Israel's apartheid government" in her remarks, making clear that it is the apartheid nature of the government that she stands in opposition to, not the idea of an Israeli state.

  • Taibbi: The Washington Post Dabbles In Orwell

    Snowden is America's most famous revealer-of-secrets, and the way he's talked about has evolved to an extreme degree in less than a decade, showing how quickly a story about security overreach can be flipped into an argument for more vigilance. The press, which once worked with Snowden in its proper role as a bulwark against government excess, is effectively an arm of the state now, as is shown again in this absurd episode.

    This article began as an aggressive rewrite of history and the Post's own views, but underwent numerous alterations after it attracted criticism online yesterday.
    ...
    There was no reference to Clapper being inveigled in a perjury controversy for denying that fact, under oath. Asked on March 12, 2013 by Senator Ron Wyden, "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans?" Clapper responded, "No, sir. ... Not wittingly." A year later, we were still in a world where Politifact could rate an intelligence chief's words "false." That seems a lifetime ago, with Snowden in permanent exile and Clapper a paid TV analyst.

  • The science of a wandering mind

    Around the same time, brain imaging techniques were developing, and they were telling neuroscientists that something happens in the brain even when it isn't occupied with a behavioral task. Large regions of the brain, now called the default mode network, did the opposite: If you gave people a task, the activity in these areas went down.
    ...
    The results, presented in these word clouds, suggest functions for each part of the network. The core: involved in thinking about oneself. The medial temporal lobe subsystem: thinking about things that happen, or episodic processes. The dorsal medial subsystem: thinking about social processes. These three aspects often come together during mind-wandering, Smallwood says.

  • How Wearing a Mask Can Help Protect You Even If No One Else Wears One

    A modeling study published in the journal PNAS in December 2021 estimated a masked person's likelihood of getting sick after talking with an unmasked person who has COVID-19. Someone wearing a surgical mask had up to a 90% chance of getting infected after half an hour (even while seated about five feet apart from the sick person), while someone in a respirator (N95s and KN95s) had around a 20% chance after a full hour, the researchers estimated. If both the sick person and their companion wore respirators, the infection risk dropped to just 0.4% after an hour.

  • Vitamin D won't protect you from Covid or respiratory infections, studies say

    Vitamin D supplements aren't likely to prevent an infection from Covid-19 or respiratory infections like colds or flu, even if your current levels of the vitamin are low, according to two new, large clinical trials.

    Also, Vitamin D, omega-3 won't prevent frailty, study warns healthy seniors.

  • I Wish I Was a Little Bit Taller

    A growing number of men are undergoing a radical and expensive surgery to grow anywhere from three to six inches. The catch: It requires having both your femurs broken

  • Mel Magazine

    A Men's lifestyle and culture magazine.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Wed Aug 31 21:02:22 EDT 2022

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • Here's why Chuck Schumer will never close the carried-interest loophole

    The managers get to keep (carry) a portion (an interest) in the funds they manage. In reality, the investors are paying the managers for their labor of managing, which is income. The carried interest doesn't represent capital the managers put at risk. It represents compensation. It should be taxed as income, but it gets taxed as capital gains, thus at a lower rate.
    ...
    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was never going to close the carried-interest loophole. Schumer lives off of that loophole. He is married to the hedge-fund and private-equity industries in a very dysfunctional marriage. Schumer extracts wealth from the industries while constantly, for two decades, threatening to take away their loophole, but always saving them in the end.

  • Can the Visa-Mastercard duopoly be broken?

    America is home to the heftiest interchange fees of any major economy - costs are an order of magnitude greater than in Europe and China. That largely benefits two firms: Visa and Mastercard, which facilitate more than three-quarters of the country's credit-card transactions. Doing so has made them two of the most profitable companies in the world, with net margins last year of 51% and 46% respectively.
    ...
    These fees are set by Mastercard and Visa, but collected by banks, which take a slice and use them to fund perks, such as insurance and air miles, to entice customers. For the right to use the card networks' transaction-processing services, banks hand over enormous fees. The result is that consumers pay through the nose for their perks while remaining largely oblivious. According to a paper published last year by Joanna Stavins of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and colleagues, retailers raise prices at the tills by 1.4%, passing interchange costs on to households.

  • A Critique of Utilitarianism

    Russ Roberts: part I of a 4-part series on utilitarianism

    ... I critique what I call narrow utilitarianism -- the day-to-day calculus of pleasure and pain -- as a basis for making big life decisions. In the process of writing the book, I realized that utilitarianism is embedded in various ways in how economists think about decision-making at both the societal and individual level. I also realized that the utilitarian approach tends to encourage economists to focus on the measurable at the expense of what is not measurable and that this can lead us badly astray, a theme that is at the heart of my book. So this essay is in some sense the intellectual backstory of the issues that I write about in WILD PROBLEMS as well as expanding the ideas in the book beyond the focus on individual decision-making and looking at the implications for public policy.

  • We don't have a hundred biases, we have the wrong model

    Behavioral economics has identified dozens of cognitive biases that stop us from acting 'rationally'. But instead of building up a messier and messier picture of human behavior, we need a new model.   By Jason Collins

    Outside of applied work, the lack of a theoretical framework hampers progress of behavioral economics as a science. Primarily, it means you don't understand what it is that you are observing. Further, many disciplines have suffered from what is now called the replication crisis, for which psychology is the poster child. If your body of knowledge is a list of unconnected phenomena rather than a theoretical framework, you lose the ability to filter experimental results by whether they are surprising and represent a departure from theory. The rational-actor model might have once provided that foundation, but the departures have become so plentiful that there is no longer any discipline to their accumulation. Rather than experiments that allow us to distinguish between competing theories, we have experiments searching for effects.
    ...
    However, modifications to the rational-actor model will emerge from the fact that its current conception typically involves poorly specified or incorrectly assumed objectives, a conception of rationality focused on bias rather than error, and an inadequate consideration of the constrained computational resources that we have at hand. The rational-actor model is not bad, but, like those astronomers grappling with epicycles on epicycles, we can and should try to do better.

  • The AI startup erasing call center worker accents: is it fighting bias - or perpetuating it?

    Hi, good morning. I'm calling in from Bangalore, India." I'm talking on speakerphone to a man with an obvious Indian accent. He pauses. "Now I have enabled the accent translation," he says. It's the same person, but he sounds completely different: loud and slightly nasal, impossible to distinguish from the accents of my friends in Brooklyn.

  • What is NSDR technique and what are its benefits

    NSDR or Non-Sleep Deep Rest refers to techniques which not only help induce calm and relaxation but also help improve learning and memory or in other words neuroplasticity.

    NSDR is simply a term coined by neuroscientist and Stanford professor Andrew Huberman to refer to relaxation techniques like Yoga Nidra or self-hypnosis. He didn't invent these practices; he simply created the term NSDR to makes these concepts more acceptable within the scientific community. Because moment you say yoga people in the west start thinking weird postures and once you say hypnosis, the general impression is losing control of your body to someone else.

  • Reflections on "American Rehab"

    Center for Investigative Reporting's Reveal team podcast series about Synanon.

    In 1965, renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow credited the Game with helping Synanon achieve the status of "eupsychia," or a perfectly psychologically healthy society, that should serve as a model for American society. Whereas his academic training taught him to "treat [people] as if they were like brittle china that would break easily," Synanon's "'no-crap therapy'" suggested that human beings needed to "clean out the defenses, the rationalizations, the veils, the evasions and politenesses of the world." Maslow (and many others) studied Synanon as an exercise in building "a little Utopia, a place out of the world where you can get real straightforwardness, real honesty and the respect that is implied by honesty." Throughout the 1960s, Synanon Game Clubs proliferated across the United States, with tens of thousands of members participating, including college students, CEOs, Black Panthers, and Oakland police officers.

    I still miss the New York City Game Club hosted by Irwin Rothleder until March 30, 1992.

  • ACM TechBrief Warns of Promise and Peril of "Sleeper": Quantum Simulation Technology

    "Quantum Computing and Simulation" underscores how quantum simulation, an offshoot of quantum computing that has received relatively little attention, poses profound societal and individual risks as well as benefits with serious public policy implications. These include that intense media and policymaker focus on the theorized encryption-cracking power of future quantum computers has obscured the imminent viability, and actual likely consequences, of quantum simulation technology today.

  • OldWeb Today

    Browse emulated browsers connected to old web sites in your browser!

  • 'Taylor Swift Songbook' Class Now Being Offered at the University of Texas

    The star's work will be taught alongside that of famous poets such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Wyatt, Coleridge, Keats, Dickinson and Plath.

    "This course uses the songwriting of pop music icon Taylor Swift to introduce literary critical reading and research methods - basic skills for work in English literature and other humanities disciplines," the description reads. "Focusing on Swift's music and the cultural contexts in which it and her career are situated, we'll consider frameworks for understanding her work, such as poetic form, style, and history among various matters and theoretical issues important to contextualization as we practice close and in-depth reading, evaluating secondary sources, and building strong arguments."

  • Fifty years ago, I started playing this little-known sport with a funny name. Now, it's all the rage.

    Bill Gates on pickleball.

  • New studies bolster theory coronavirus emerged from the wild

    Two new studies provide more evidence that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a Wuhan, China market where live animals were sold - further bolstering the theory that the virus emerged in the wild rather than escaping from a Chinese lab.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Sat Jul 30 21:41:13 EDT 2022

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • Why Mass Hysteria is Thriving in the 21st Century

    Robert Bartholomew Honorary Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Auckland

    Robert Bartholomew discusses his investigation into `Havana Syndrome' and the bad science behind it. He describes it as a myth that is a product of shoddy science, poor journalism and bad government. He will also examine the history of mass psychogenic illness (aka, 'mass hysteria) from the strange case of the meowing nuns during the latter Middle Ages to more recent outbreaks involving hiccupping schoolgirls in Massachusetts to recent claims that Lucky Charms cereal is making people sick. Yes - mass psychogenic illness is alive and well, yet many people including medical professionals do not have an accurate understanding of the concept and incorrectly equate it with mental illness or psychological weakness.

  • How long will John McWhorter last at the New York Times?

    Remember, the editor of the Times editorial pages, James Bennett, was forced out last June for publishing a wrong opinion. In this case, it was an op-ed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton making the case that the military can and should be used to quell violent domestic disturbances, such as riots.
    ...
    He (McWhorter) is not a political conservative, but he is an unapologetic scourge of all things woke. Three examples:

    1. McWhorter has taken dead aim at Ibram X. Kendi and African American studies departments
    2. McWhorter has been scathing in his criticism of the New York Times's `1619 Project'
    3. He's said that there is nothing racist about the mass movement to ban critical race theory in schools
    Also see, Why won't Ibram X. Kendi debate John McWhorter?
  • How Wikipedia influences judicial behavior

    Researchers from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Maynooth University, Ireland came up with a friendly stress test: creating new legal Wikipedia articles to examine how they affect the legal decisions of judges.
    ...
    It turned out the influx of articles tipped the scales: getting a Wikipedia article increased a case's citations by more than 20%. The increase was statistically significant and the effect was particularly strong for cases that supported the argument the citing judge was making in their decision (but not the converse). Unsurprisingly, the increase was bigger for citations by lower courts - the High Court - and mostly absent for citations by appellate courts - the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal. The researchers suspect that this is showing that Wikipedia is used more by judges or clerks who have a heavier workload, for whom the convenience of Wikipedia offers a greater attraction.

  • The best way to brush your teeth

    These bacteria and other microorganisms grow inside everyone's mouth, and form a claggy biofilm commonly known as dental plaque. It is made up of around 700 different species of bacteria, the second-greatest diversity in the human body after the gut, as well as a host of fungi and viruses. "They are living in the sticky film stuck to the teeth and also to the soft tissues," says Hirschfeld. "This sticky film can't be easily rinsed off - it really needs to be manually cleaned."

    The most important place to remove it from is not in fact the teeth, but the gumline. This is where microbes are best able to infiltrate the gum tissue and cause inflammation, and eventually conditions such as periodontitis. In fact, "brushing your teeth" is something of a misnomer. "Think of brushing your gumline, rather than the teeth themselves," says Hirschfeld. "The teeth will then be brushed automatically."

  • The Model Is The Message

    The debate over whether LaMDA is sentient or not overlooks important issues that will frame debates about intelligence, sentience, language and human-AI interaction in the coming years.

    Like most other observers, we do not conclude that LaMDA is conscious in the ways that Lemoine believes it to be. His inference is clearly based in motivated anthropomorphic projection. At the same time, it is also possible that these kinds of artificial intelligence (AI) are "intelligent" - and even "conscious" in some way - depending on how those terms are defined.
    ...
    Perhaps the real lesson for philosophy of AI is that reality has outpaced the available language to parse what is already at hand.

  • Is Productivity Growth Becoming Irrelevant?

    Some economists see low business investment, poor skills, outdated infrastructure, or excessive regulation holding back potential growth nowadays. But there may be a deeper explanation: As we get richer, measured productivity may inevitably slow, and measured per capita GDP may tell us ever less about trends in human welfare.

    The growth of "zero-sum" activities may, however, be even more important. Look around the economy, and it's striking how much high-talent manpower is devoted to activities that cannot possibly increase human welfare, but entail competition for the available economic pie. Such activities have become ubiquitous: legal services, policing, and prisons; cybercrime and the army of experts defending organizations against it; financial regulators trying to stop mis-selling and the growing ranks of compliance officers employed in response; the huge resources devoted to US election campaigns; real-estate services that facilitate the exchange of already-existing assets; and much financial trading.

  • The New Numbers on Music Consumption Are Very Ugly

    And it's not just the dominance of old songs-the whole creative culture is losing its ability to innovate. But why?

    The latest report shows that the consumption of old music grew another 14% during the first half of 2022, while demand for new music declined an additional 1.4%. These old tunes now represent a staggering 72% of the market.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Thu Jun 30 18:26:10 EDT 2022

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • What AI Can Tell Us About Intelligence

    Can deep learning systems learn to manipulate symbols? The answers might change our understanding of how intelligence works and what makes humans unique.

    The high stakes explain why claims that DL has hit a wall are so provocative. If Marcus and the nativists are right, DL will never get to human-like AI, no matter how many new architectures it comes up with or how much computing power it throws at it. It is just confusion to keep adding more layers, because genuine symbolic manipulation demands an innate symbolic manipulator, full stop. And since this symbolic manipulation is at the base of several abilities of common sense, a DL-only system will never possess anything more than a rough-and-ready understanding of anything.

    By contrast, if DL advocates and the empiricists are right, it’s the idea of inserting a module for symbolic manipulation that is confused. In that case, DL systems are already engaged in symbolic reasoning and will continue to improve at it as they become better at satisfying constraints through more multimodal self-supervised learning, an increasingly useful predictive world-model, and an expansion of working memory for simulating and evaluating outcomes. Introducing a symbolic manipulation module would not lead to more human-like AI, but instead force all “reasoning” operations through an unnecessary and unmotivated bottleneck that would take us further from human-like intelligence. This threatens to cut off one of the most impressive aspects to deep learning: its ability to come up with far more useful and clever solutions than the ones human programmers conceive of.

  • Bill Gates says crypto and NFTs are a sham

    Don't count Bill Gates among the fans of cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Those digital asset trends are "100% based on greater fool theory," the Microsoft co-founder said Tuesday at a TechCrunch conference, referencing the notion that investors can make money on worthless or overvalued assets as long as people are willing to bid them higher.

  • FIRE: The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

    Doing the work the ACLU use to do.

    The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s mission is to defend and sustain the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought—the most essential qualities of liberty. FIRE educates Americans about the importance of these inalienable rights, promotes a culture of respect for these rights, and provides the means to preserve them.

  • Dogs Can Detect COVID-19 With Great Accuracy

    Non-invasive detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection by canine olfaction could be one alternative to NPS RT-PCR when it is necessary to obtain a result very quickly according to the same indications as antigenic tests in the context of mass screening.

  • Poor Prospects--Not Inequality--Motivate Political Violence

    We present two arguments: despite being a key explanatory variable in existing research, perceived lower economic status vis-à-vis other individuals (an indicator of relative deprivation) is unlikely to motivate people to participate in violence; by contrast, although virtually unexplored, a projected decrease in one's own economic status (prospective decremental deprivation) is likely to motivate violence. Multilevel analyses of probability samples from many African countries provide evidence to support these claims.

  • Fewer Americans than ever believe in God, Gallup poll shows

    Belief in God among Americans dipped to a new low, Gallup's latest poll shows. While the majority of adults in the U.S. believe in God, belief has dropped to 81% — the lowest ever recorded by Gallup -and is down from 87% in 2017. Between 1944 and 2011, more than 90% of Americans believed in God, Gallup reported. Younger, liberal Americans are the least likely to believe in God, according to Gallup's May 2-22 values and beliefs poll results released Friday. Political conservatives and married adults had little change when comparing 2022 data to an average of polls from 2013 to 2017. The groups with the largest declines are liberals (62% of whom believe in God), young adults (68%) and Democrats (72%), while belief in God is highest among conservatives (94%) and Republicans (92%).

    The poll also found that slightly more than half of conservatives and Republicans say they believe God hears prayers and can intervene, as well as 32% of Democrats, 25% of liberals and 30% of young adults. Gallup said it has documented steeper drops in church attendance, membership and confidence in organized religion, which suggests that the practice of religious faith is changing more than general belief in God.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Mon Jun 20 17:29:21 EDT 2022

Healthy Aging

Some recent items about staying healthy while getting older.

  • How much physical activity do older adults need?

    Physical Activity is Essential to Healthy Aging.

      Adults aged 65 and older need:
    • At least 150 minutes a week (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking. Or they need 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity such as hiking, jogging, or running.
    • At least 2 days a week of activities that strengthen muscles.
    • Activities to improve balance such as standing on one foot about 3 days a week.

    And related see: Trends in Nonfatal Falls and Fall-Related Injuries Among Adults Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2012–2018.

  • When Thinner Isn't Better

    Extra pounds may keep some people healthier after a certain age.

    "The BMI curve shifts to the right as you age,” Nicklas explains, “meaning higher weight is better in older age.” Those extra pounds buffer against unintended weight loss due to digestive system conditions (or things like dental issues) that prevent people from eating enough. They can also offer protection from heart failure or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). And extra padding can help prevent life-threatening fractures if an older old person falls.

    What's more, “if you're really thin, then you lose weight in your 80s, you are at risk of becoming frail,” says David Reuben, a specialist in geriatric internal medicine at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif. (Frailty is a clinical syndrome in which three or more of the following criteria are present: unintentional weight loss of 10 pounds in a year; self-reported exhaustion; weakness; slow walking speed; and low physical activity). If you're over 80 and have a BMI below 20, Reuben says, you're in the frailty zone.

  • Single brain scan can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease

    A single MRI scan of the brain could be enough to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research by Imperial College London.

    The research uses machine learning technology to look at structural features within the brain, including in regions not previously associated with Alzheimer’s. The advantage of the technique is its simplicity and the fact that it can identify the disease at an early stage when it can be very difficult to diagnose.

  • Oncology's Darwinian Dilemma

    But the rub is that this immunotherapy revolution applies only to a narrow set of patients. Some benefit, but the majority do not. And patients who are cured constitute an even smaller minority. Why is this? How can immunotherapy cure a 65-year-old, newly retired man of Stage IV lung cancer, restoring the promise of his golden years with his family, but do nothing for the 55-year-old woman whose cancer robs her of decades of life? We do not know. A flurry of research is aimed at trying to answer this question. And what it is uncovering is the sheer variety of lung cancer and lung cancer patients. No two patients with lung cancer are the same. Their tumors have different genetic mutations. Their immune systems behave differently. We are even learning that their metabolisms can affect responses to treatment. And, astonishingly, emerging evidence suggests that the billions of bacteria that colonize their skin, lungs, and colons play a role in how they respond to cancer treatment.
    ...
    Variation may be liberating: it can provide hope to patients and families. But that hope could very well be purchased at the cost of undue suffering: the same uncertainty that carries the promise of a cure carries the possibility of suffering.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Tue May 31 14:34:51 EDT 2022

Items of Interest

Various web links I found to be of interest recently.

  • The Bayesian Brain: An Introduction to Predictive Processing

    Dominic Reichl: "The more I learn about the Bayesian brain, the more it seems to me that the theory of predictive processing is about as important for neuroscience as the theory of evolution is for biology, and that Bayes' law is about as important for cognitive science as the Schrödinger equation is for physics."

    Your brain runs an internal model of the causal order of world that continually creates predictions about what you expect to perceive. These predictions are then matched with what you actually perceive, and the divergence between predicted sensory data and actual sensory data yields a prediction error. The better a prediction, the better the fit, and the less prediction error propagates up the hierarchy.
    ...
    Predictive processing provides a framework for understanding all areas of neuroscience and cognitive science at a computational level. Although the Bayesian brain theory is still in its fledgling stage, confirmatory evidence is flowing in on a weekly basis from a vast range of different fields. And although it offers a highly integrative and ambitious account of the brain and human cognition, it does leave much unspecified. For specification, we must also engage with the paradigms of evolution (as cognition has an evolutionary history), embodied embeddedness (as cognition is embedded in physical environments), and sociocultural situatedness (as cognition is situated in social and cultural contexts). Only if we cover and combine all levels of analysis can we truly understand how humans work.

  • The ACLU Has Lost Its Way

    The heart of Depp's claim is that Heard ruined his acting career when she published a 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post describing herself as "a public figure representing domestic abuse"-a thinly veiled reference to much-publicized accusations of assault she made against Depp in court filings toward the end of their short-lived marriage. But Heard hadn't pitched the idea to the Post-the ACLU had. Terence Dougherty, the organization's general counsel, testified via video deposition that after Heard promised to donate $3.5 million to the organization, the ACLU named her an "ambassador on women's rights with a focus on gender-based violence." The ACLU had also spearheaded the effort to place the op-ed, and served as Heard's ghostwriter. When Heard failed to pay up, Dougherty said, the ACLU collected $100,000 from Depp himself, and another $500,000 from a fund connected to Elon Musk, whom Heard dated after the divorce.
    ...
    The ACLU's bestowal of an ambassadorship and scribe-for-hire services upon a scandal-plagued actor willing to pay seven figures to transform herself into a victims' advocate and advance her acting career-Heard pushed for a publication date that coincided with the release of her film Aquaman-is part of the group's continuing decline. Once a bastion of free speech and high-minded ideals, the ACLU has become in many respects a caricature of its former self.

  • Supreme Court's Roe ruling would trample the religious freedom of every Jewish American

    For Jews, it is no exaggeration to say that access to abortion services isn't just tolerated, it is a religious requirement, and has been for thousands of years.
    ...
    In Exodus chapter 21:22 of the Torah, we see a clear statement that a fetus is not a person: "When men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined." This stands in sharp contrast with the next verse, which makes clear that if the pregnant person themselves is injured, then the punishment is "a life for a life, an eye for an eye."

  • Kidnap Plot Trial Shows FBI At Its Most Corrupt

    The story sounded like the plot of a bad Hollywood movie: a group of men concocted a scheme to kidnap MI Gov. Gretchen Whitmer because of her Covid lockdowns. But on Friday, a jury in Grand Rapids found two men not guilty in the kidnap case, while deadlocked on charges against two ringleaders. The judge also declared a mistrial.
    ...
    Certainly the defendants were no choir boys. But at the same time, the real villains in the kidnap case were the FBI, who developed strategies to entrap the defendants.

  • Seven Varieties of Stupidity

    (and what to do about them)

    When the psychologist Philip Tetlock was a graduate student he witnessed an experiment, designed by his mentor Bob Rescorla, which pitted a group of Yale undergrads against a rat. The students were shown a T-maze, like the one below. Food would appear at either A or B. The students' job was to predict where the food would appear next. The rat was set the same task.

    Rescorla applied a simple rule: food appeared on the left 60% of the time and on the right, 40%, at random. The students, assuming that some complex algorithm must be at work, looked for patterns and found them. They ended up getting it right 52% of the time - not much better than chance and considerably worse than the rat, which quickly figured out that one side yielded better results than the other and so headed to the left every time, achieving a 60% success rate.

  • Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) Tools & Resources

    From Wikipedia: Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is the collection and analysis of data gathered from open sources (overt and publicly available sources) to produce actionable intelligence. OSINT is primarily used in national security, law enforcement, and business intelligence functions and is of value to analysts who use non-sensitive intelligence in answering classified, unclassified, or proprietary intelligence requirements across the previous intelligence disciplines.

    For how it is used see the bell¿ngcat investigative journalism group.

  • Life Advice from NYC Chess Hustlers
  • Poisoned legacy: why the future of power can't be nuclear

    Billions that would otherwise go to new nuclear infrastructure, with all the attendant costs of cleanup that continue for decades and beyond, should be pumped instead into clean energy.

  • 'Mind-blowing': Ai-Da becomes first robot to paint like an artist

    AI algorithms prompt robot to interrogate, select, and decision-make to create a painting.

    Camera eyes fixed on her subject, AI algorithms prompt Ai-Da to interrogate, select, decision-make and, ultimately, create a painting. It's painstaking work, taking more than five hours a painting, but with no two works exactly the same.


Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments

Wed May 25 22:25:40 EDT 2022

Health Related

Some recent health related items.

  • 'Good' cholesterol may protect brain from Alzheimer's disease

    Higher levels of "good" cholesterol in the fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord may help protect you from Alzheimer's disease, a new study suggests.
    ...
    The study linked a higher number of small HDL particles in cerebrospinal fluid with two key indicators that they might protect against Alzheimer's.

  • 7,000 steps can save your life

    Stunning stat: Mortality risk was reduced by 50% for older adults who increased their daily steps from around 3,000 to around 7,000, according to new medical research.
    ...
    Between the lines: "It's not an all or nothing situation," says Paluch. Even just boosting daily step count to 5,000 - for 60 and older - and 7,000 - for younger folks - slashed mortality risk by 40%.

  • COVID Kills Three to Six Times More Republicans According to NPR Study

    COVID-related American death data shows dramatic differences between Republican and Democratic counties, with the reddest tenth of the nation in October chalking up a death rate six times higher than that of the bluest tenth.
    ...
    Of 800,000 American COVID deaths, at least 179,400 more Republicans than Democrats have died. Was it FOX, Trump, or something else?

  • Why the WHO took two years to say COVID is airborne

    The organization says that initial guidance covered airborne precautions in health-care settings, but notes that: "As the evidence on the transmission of COVID-19 has expanded, we have learnt that smaller-sized infectious particles known as aerosols also play a role in transmission in community settings, and WHO has adapted its guidance and messages to reflect this in the December 2020 update to our mask guidance."
    ...
    Part of the problem was how emphatic the WHO was at the beginning of the pandemic, says Heidi Tworek, a historian and public-policy specialist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. "To say that COVID was definitively not airborne unfortunately meant there was a massive hill to climb to undo that," she says. Right from the beginning, the WHO and other public-health authorities and governments should have emphasized that SARS-CoV-2 was a new coronavirus, and that guidelines would inevitably change, she says. "And when they do, it's a good thing because it means we know more."

  • Employee's Panic Attacks From Surprise Birthday Party Prompt $450K Award

Posted by mjm | Permanent link | Comments