A list of articles I read. 154
2018 12
Date Title Subtitle
Panicked about Kids’ Addiction to Tech? Here are two things you could do
"I want to yell at all of the parents around me to chill out. [...] In the early years, children learn values and norms by watching their parents and other caregivers. [...] Verbalize what you're doing with your phone. [...] Create a household contract. This is a contract that sets the boundaries for everyone in the house — parents and kids. [...] Work through the process, but have your child lead it rather than you dictate it. [...] There are plenty of teens out there that know their psychological desire to talk non-stop with their friends for fear of missing out is putting them in a bad place. [...] I would strongly recommend that parents focus their energies on negotiating a path through that allows children to be bought-in and aware of why boundaries are being set. That requires communication and energy, not a new technology to police boundaries for you."
The Quorn revolution: the rise of ultra-processed fake meat
I'm not against "ultra-processed" food in principle, but I understand why some people would prefer more "simple" food. It's less scary. Personally, I tend to avoid Quorn products because most of them are vegetarian and not vegan. "The short explanation is that Quorn is a "mycoprotein" fermented in vats from a fungus found in soil. A fuller – but still heavily truncated – one is that it is made from a strain of the soil mould Fusarium venenatum by fermenting it, then adding glucose, fixed nitrogen, vitamins and minerals and heat-treating it to remove excess levels of ribonucleic acid. (In other words, it is a long way from what the phrase "plant food" may seem to denote.) [...] Quorn, in common with other fake meats, is incontestably ultra-processed. Evidently, this is not an issue for the animal welfare, vegetarian and vegan groups that hail such confections as a potential end to animal slaughter and the misery of factory farming."
My professional opinion as a blockchain researcher: I don't see the point (yet)
I don't completely understand blockchains. At this point, it sounds like an overhyped buzzword. The first person that talked to me about blockchains in very enthusiastic terms a few years ago happens to be quite religious and I don't think it's a coincidence... So, yes, I tend to be biased against blockchains, probably for the wrong reasons, but this article more or less confirms my biases. "Very few people outside so-called crypto-anarchist community are opposed to trusted intermediaries as a matter of principle. [...] For who among us can honestly say "yes, I am capable of reviewing the code behind blockchain applications I'm using and I have personally done so to make sure I'm not being scammed?" [...] I believe that in the long run, crypto-enabled distributed trust technologies could possibly have significant role in enabling micropayments and microinvestments. [...] Proof of Work, where we don't have to know or trust other users, is absolutely ridiculous waste of resources and will always have trouble scaling up. [...] Cryptography is not some magic free lunch that totally changes the rules in investing and finance. [...] Some interesting developments that may point a direction to the future include automating some aspects of insurance markets, such as automating claims processing in more straightforward cases (e.g. when a flight is cancelled and customers need to be refunded) or even selling of insurances automatically based on mutually shared financial data."
What If Parents Loved Strangers' Children As Much As Their Own?
"Would the world be improved if parents cared for other people just as much as they cared for their own children? [...] It's not unusual, when thinking about the future, to wonder which of our contemporary values will one day seem backward or naïve. And given the trend of expanding our circle of moral concern, it's fairly common to see predictions that we will eventually grant legal protections to animals and even artificial intelligences. [...] As a child, you want your parent to favor you and your siblings over other people; this is the emotional core of being a family. [...] "What did family mean if everyone was included?" [...] One of the notable features of life on the kibbutzim of the past was collective child-rearing, in which even young children spent relatively little time with their parents and mostly lived in communal buildings. [...] [A]s long as we are bound to our bodies, a history of physical closeness and contact will remain important to us. That means children will prefer their parents to strangers, and they deserve to have their parents reciprocate that feeling."
Lift Weights, Eat More Protein, Especially if You're Over 40
"People who would like to become physically stronger should start with weight training and add protein to their diets, according to a comprehensive scientific review of research. [...] Beef, chicken, yogurt and even protein from peas or quinoa could help us to build larger and stronger muscles. [...] They wound up with 49 high-quality past experiments that had studied a total of 1,863 people, including men and women, young and old, and experienced weight trainers as well as novices. [...] [T]hose who did ramp up their protein gained an extra 10 percent or so in strength and about 25 percent in muscle mass compared to the control groups. [...] The researchers also looked for the sweet spot for protein intake, which turned out to be about 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day."
'I regret having children' In pushing the boundaries of accepted maternal response, women are challenging an explosive taboo-and reframing motherhood in the process
"The premise that motherhood is not a one-size-fits-all role shouldn't come as a surprise in 2018, given the rise of the "childless by choice" movement or an international decline in birth rates. Still, it's received as an affront to the "sanctity" of motherhood and the entrenched belief that the maternal instinct is innate and unconditional—despite ample historical evidence to the contrary. [...] Anti-natalist philosopher David Benatar [...] even argues no one should have children on compassionate grounds given the painfulness of life. [...] A 2016 German study found eight per cent of 1,200 parents polled said they would choose not to have children again. [...] [A] 2010 American Sociological Association study found that parents were more likely to be depressed than their child-free counterparts, and that people without kids were happier than any other group. [...] [W]omen who feel guilt over regret are more conscientious parents. "The more I feel [regret], the more I give them." [...] [M]ost men who became fathers even though they didn't want to did so because their partner wanted to be a mother, and they didn't want to live without her. [...] Pro-natalism serves national interests. [...] The belief that women are uniquely equipped to parent also marginalizes fathers. [...] 'What if my child ever read this?' [...] Women who express regret, or any critique of motherhood, typically have done so through humour. [...] So many mothers are on anti-anxiety medication and antidepressants or have secret post-partum lasting for years. [...] [T]his is where the subject of regret introduces a radical new twist in the mother plot: It introduces the notion that mothers can exist autonomously from their children. [...] Recognizing regret as part of the maternal experience requires a sea change in thinking."
Is everything you think you know about depression wrong? In this extract from his new book, Johann Hari, who took antidepressants for 13 years, calls for a new approach
"These drugs are having a positive effect for some people – but they clearly can't be the main solution for the majority of us, because we're still depressed even when we take them. [...] It turns out that, in the same way, all humans have certain basic psychological needs. We need to feel we belong. We need to feel valued. We need to feel we're good at something. We need to feel we have a secure future. And there is growing evidence that our culture isn't meeting those psychological needs for many – perhaps most – people. [...] When you are controlled, you can't create meaning out of your work. [...] We need to move from "focusing on 'chemical imbalances'", they said, to focusing more on "power imbalances". [...] This pain you are feeling is not a pathology. [...] It is a signal that your natural psychological needs are not being met. It is a form of grief – for yourself, and for the culture you live in going so wrong."
Too Much Music: A Failed Experiment In Dedicated Listening

"Partly due to the ubiquity of music playlists and partly due to supply outweighing even my most insatiable of demands, all music was becoming Muzak. [...] As a person who still legitimately believes in music's potential to transcend life's banalities, disappointments, and even its suffering, this was cause for concern. [...] I calculated that if I lived another, say, 40 years, and spent every minute of those next 40 years — that's no sleeping, no eating — listening to my collection of music, I would be dead before I could make it all the way through. [...] For the entirety of 2017, I would listen to just one album a week. I decided to conduct this experiment because I romanticized the days of intimate close listening, of prolonged concentrated meditation with an art object, and I sought to reactivate the ritual function of such encounters. [...] A friend once floated a theory that I've grappled with ever since. She claimed that we only ever really love 10 albums, and we spend the rest of our listening lives seeking facsimiles of those 10, pursuing the initial rush, so to speak. [...] Modern life, with all of its informational density, has rendered filtering out the noise virtually impossible. [...] As long as we try to maintain the Sisyphean task of trying to experience everything, our brains, unable to adapt and forever lagging behind exponential technological progress, will continue to struggle. [...] The diluvial nature of modern media leaves us little time to pause. The challenge, then, is to cultivate the patience and the discipline necessary to engage more deeply than the modern world allows. Just because we are flooded doesn't mean we have to drown."

I really sympathize with the author and, at the same time, our situations are not exactly the same. I've stopped collecting physical recordings a long time ago and I try to buy/download only what I intend to listen to. Also, I sometimes "force myself" to listen to some albums/recordings (jazz classics, classical music, etc.), but I allow myself to listen to other music as well. I don't really understand why the author thought it would be a good idea to listen to only one album per week and nothing else. Listening to music is supposed to be a pleasurable experience, after all.

Longevity FAQ: A beginner's guide to longevity research
It's a technical overview, so it's not a simple "article". Basically, there are a lot of directions for further research. Nicotinamide riboside (NR) doesn't seem to be that promising (105% lifespan increase in mouses). "Lowering protein:carbohydrate ratio" seems to be way more interesting (128%). Another hint that we should all lower our sugar consumption. "Fasting mimicking diet" (112%) is another intriguing idea (it's not the same thing as intermittent fasting). Aspirin (108%) seems to be beneficial as well. And then there is CR (132%), which is well known, but not very practical. I don't know if the 90 other ways of extending mouse lifespans can lead to "quick hacks" or not.
Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History
This sounds like an article written by Steven Pinker, but it's not, although he is mentioned. In summary, the world gets better and better according to a lot of metrics: hunger, poverty, literacy, health, education, etc. It's important to also remember the following, though: "The world is registering important progress, but it also faces mortal threats." North Korea, if you insist, but, more importantly, climate change, artificial intelligence, etc.
The tricks to make yourself effortlessly charming From the first moment you walk into a room people are making judgements about how much they like you. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your chances
My feeling is that people like George Clooney have a huge natural advantage over most people. But, apparently, there are tricks you can use. Do they really work? No idea. Some of them include: smiling, doing an eyebrow flash (a quick up and down movement of the eyebrow) while smiling, not talking about yourself, maintaining eye contact, "indirect flattery", finding common ground, mirroring the body language of the other person, revealing details about yourself little by little (not all at once), etc.
Bookstore Chains, Long in Decline, Are Undergoing a Final Shakeout
"The internet is killing retail. Bookstores are just the first to go." The debate here is not about e-books. I love them. Most people don't (apparently). But this article is not about the merits of physical and electronic books. It's about the fact that it's almost impossible to compete against Amazon, which sells physical, as well as electronic books. "To go online is so easy, so convenient. [...] To draw people into a store now is a monumental challenge." It's easier to go online than to go to a physical store, yes, but online stores can also offer better information and recommendations than a random employee. The keyword here is "can". I'm not saying that current online recommendations are great. I'm saying they have the potential to be better or even way better than the recommendations made by a single humain being. "I think it's important for kids to read, and do it the old-fashioned way." I agree here. Physical books are great for children. But, again, it's not the debate, as you can order them online. One advantage of physical stores: you can have a look at those books, whereas previews are often not available online (at least for nonconventional books such as toys/books for babies, books with extra-thick pages, etc.).
2017 105
Date Title Subtitle
What Needs to Happen Before Electric Cars Take Over the World Electric vehicles have only a tiny market share, but the auto industry is betting billions that they will soon be as cheap as conventional cars.
What's needed: 1) cheaper powertrains (2-3 times cheaper) 2) "steady, affordable supply of the resources required to make batteries" (mainly cobalt, lithium, and graphite) 3) "more charging stations [...] and they'll need to charge faster" 4) a psychological shift (not really a problem, I would guess) 5) investments in new production lines and technologies (i.e. manufacturers will need to cut losses).
Epigenetics - It's not just genes that make us
As usual, it's more complicated than that. "To make a computer analogy, think of epigenetics as metadata, information describing and ordering the underlying data. [...] [T]he switch between queen and worker can be flipped by the abundance of methyl tags on the bee larvae's DNA. [...] [G]enes can be switched right off (this is called silencing), full on, or somewhere in between by DNA methyl tags and histone tail tags. [...] When cells divide, the entire DNA sequence from the original cell (3 billion base pairs contained in 23 pairs of chromosomes in a human cell) is duplicated so that both daughter cells receive an exact copy. What, you might ask, happens to all those epigenetic tags? We have known for some time that the DNA-methyl tags are copied too, so that both daughter cells have the same pattern of DNA methylation. We now know that the pattern of histone tags is also mostly duplicated as cells divide, although this is currently less well understood. [...] [G]enes received from Mum and those from Dad are labelled differently with epigenetic tags and so are not equivalent. [...] [C]ells randomly switch off either the paternal or maternal X chromosome, so that when a girl baby is born her body is a mixture or chimera of cells where either the maternal or paternal X-chromosome is switched off. [...] Although we can find cases where epigenetic effects apparently last from parents to offspring, this is not usually the case and almost all of the epigenetic switches or marks are reset in germ cells (eggs and sperm) and in the very earliest stages of development of an embryo."
Bad News for the Highly Intelligent Superior IQs associated with mental and physical disorders, research suggests
"People who do well on standardized tests of intelligence—IQ tests—tend to be more successful in the classroom and the workplace. Although the reasons are not fully understood, they also tend to live longer, healthier lives, and are less likely to experience negative life events such as bankruptcy. [...] The survey of Mensa's highly intelligent members found that they were more likely to suffer from a range of serious disorders. [...] To explain their findings, Karpinski and colleagues propose the hyper brain/hyper body theory. This theory holds that, for all of its advantages, being highly intelligent is associated with psychological and physiological "overexcitabilities", or OEs. [...] The results of this study must be interpreted cautiously because they are correlational. [...] It's also possible that people who join Mensa differ from other people in ways other than just IQ."
The Organ of the Universe: On Living with Tinnitus
"We listen intermittently, we tune in and out, but we're always hearing. [...] One study by the University of Illinois indicated that in the long term it triggers increased brain activity and fatigue. Another study found that sufferers also experience increased anxiety levels. [...] The most common treatment is counseling. We may not be able to stop it, but we can perhaps teach ourselves not to focus on it, to think about something else."
The Limits of 'Believe All Women'
"In a climate in which sexual mores are transforming so rapidly, many men are asking: If I were wrongly accused, who would believe me? [...] I believe that facts serve feminists far better than faith. [...] What we owe all people, including women, is to listen to them and to respect them and to take them seriously. But we don't owe anyone our unthinking belief."
Pretty Birds in Pretty Cages: Could the Nuclear Family Be the Reason We're All Miserable?
"[W]e've made the raising of our children incredibly isolating in the process. [...] [O]ur [species] has spent millennia raising our children and working together rather than isolated in singular pods. [...] The nuclear family has allowed the first world to grow our economies in many ways, and give more of our attention to fewer children. Yet it has also isolated us, creating situations where many adults are lonely."
I just don't want to be a software developer anymore I still love coding, but I hate this industry
"[T]he problem with that is that hobby coding isn't at all like coding for work. [...] I dream of a world where we all work less. In the meantime I'll still be here coding, maybe actually enjoying it again, and trying to find a life where I have true balance between my work and my other needs." I can relate to this. I've often wondered if a career change would be a solution. So far I've always concluded that being a software engineer is still one of the better options.
Understanding Hinton's Capsule Networks. Part II: How Capsules Work.
"We see that the design of the capsule builds up upon the design of artificial neuron, but expands it to the vector form to allow for more powerful representational capabilities. It also introduces matrix weights to encode important hierarchical relationships between features of different layers."
Struggle as the Center of Happiness
"All of this depends on people believing themselves to be in a struggle. It used to be a struggle to survive, then it was a struggle to do well in society, and soon it'll be to discover. But we cannot let ourselves be convinced that struggle is bad, or that the goal is to remove it completely." I agree that, as long as we don't change the way our psychology works, we'll have to respect some of the rules imposed by the way evolution shaped our psychology. And I agree that one of those rules could be that we need to somehow struggle to be happy. But if we start not only to understand our brains, but to artificially change/enhance them, I don't see why we still would have to respect those rules.
Understanding Hinton's Capsule Networks. Part I: Intuition.
"Internal data representation of a convolutional neural network does not take into account important spacial hierarchies between simple and complex objects. [...] [T]he key idea is that representation of objects in the brain does not depend on view angle. [...] Current implementations are much slower than other modern deep learning models. Time will show if capsule networks can be trained quickly and efficiently."
What Boredom Does to You The science of the wandering mind.
"[W]hen our minds wander, we activate a part of our brain called the "default mode network". [...] People who are bored think more creatively. [...] It feels like we are wasting time when we wait for the longest red light in the world to turn green, but the brain is putting ideas and events into perspective. [...] Is mind-wandering productive or self-defeating? Well, it seems that, like everything else in life, daydreaming is complicated. [...] The study also found that "by contrast, future- and self-related thoughts preceded improvements of mood, even when current thought content was negative." [...] Mind-wandering is not unlike our smartphones, where you can easily have too much of a good thing. [...] You could say that boredom is an incubator lab for brilliance. It's the messy, uncomfortable, confusing, frustrating place one has to occupy for a while before finally coming up with the winning equation or formula."
Software 2.0
I agree with a lot of things in this article. Neural networks / deep learning are a new and exciting way of solving problems. But, like quantum computing, you can't solve every problem using them. They're still impressive, though. In particular, the "one model to rule them all" approach is exciting. It looks like a possible way to artificial general intelligence (AGI).
Google's AI Wizard Unveils a New Twist on Neural Networks
I don't understand this "capsule" concept (yet), but the idea that, after all those years, Geoffrey Hinton can still come up with new ideas, that would potentially fix the "big data" problem (i.e. the fact that current approaches in machine learning need a lot of data to work well) is exciting.
Apple at its best
"What is fascinating to consider is just how far might Apple go if it decided to do nothing but hardware and its associated software: if Google Assistant could be the iPhone default, why would any iPhone user even give a second thought to Android?" I'm currently an iPhone user, using a lot of Google apps on iOS (Gmail, Chrome, Maps, Calendar, Drive, Docs, etc.), so this is an intriguing thought. Ten years ago, Apple was way ahead in the game (for smartphones), but it's not the case anymore, and it's also difficult to see how Apple can get as good as Google in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) field.
How Your Sedentary Lifestyle is Killing You Desk jobs got us tied to our chairs all day long. Sitting down too much and having very less activity is doing more harm to your body than you can possibly imagine.
So sitting at your desk: 1) "makes you fat" 2) "increases your chances of having a heart attack" 3) "reduces your brain's performance". The solution? Move/exercise as much as possible.
Cognitive Biases in Programming
Hyperbolic discounting: "Going for an immediate payoff instead of a delayed larger one". IKEA effect: "Overvaluing your own solutions to a problem, and thus in contrast undervalue other solutions". Premature optimization: "Optimizing before you know that you need to". Planning fallacy: "Optimistically underestimating the time required to complete a task". Recency bias: "Placing higher value on recent events than ones that occurred further in the past".
How social media endangers knowledge
"That trend toward rationality and enlightenment was endangered long before the advent of the Internet. As Neil Postman noted in his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, the rise of television introduced not just a new medium but a new discourse: a gradual shift from a typographic culture to a photographic one, which in turn meant a shift from rationality to emotions, exposition to entertainment. [...] For more than a decade, the web created an alternative space that threatened television's grip on society. Social networks, though, have since colonized the web for television's values."
Simple Ways to Be Better at Remembering
"Everything is available through a Google search almost instantaneously [...] this instant-fact setup clouds our judgment on what information to filter and store. [...] As simple as it sounds, the repetition of tasks — reading, or saying words over and over — continues to be the best method for transforming short-term memories into long-term ones. [...] Spaced repetition might be the best way. [...] Memory and focus go hand-in-hand. [...] Stop engaging in useless tasks like surfing the web and just tackle whatever it is you need to work on. Then watch your focus soar and your memory improve. [...] A simple way around that is to set reminders. [...] A lot of people are overconfident that they can handle distractions."
What you read matters more than you might think
Deep reading (books, etc.) is not the same as light reading (short blog posts, etc.). "Deep reading activates our brain's centers for speech, vision, and hearing, all of which work together to help us speak, read, and write. [...] When volunteers read their favorite poems, areas of the brain associated with memory were stimulated more strongly than "reading areas," indicating that reading poems you love is the kind of recollection that evokes strong emotions—and strong emotions are always good for creative writing. [...] [T]hese results showed that reading literary fiction temporarily enhances theory of mind, and, more broadly, that theory of mind may be influenced greater by engagement with true works of art. [...] Time spent watching television is almost always pointless."
Introduction to Effective Altruism
"While it's understandable that people want to make a difference where they can see the effects of their donations, the result is that money goes to people who are already well-off by global standards, rather than to those who need it the most. [...] Most people on reflection would agree that, if we want to improve people's lives, then it shouldn't matter what's causing their suffering — the important thing is that they're suffering." Effective altruism is one of the most exciting ideas I've encountered these last few years. It has changed the way I see things. I'm not done thinking about it, of course. It's an ongoing process.
The sugar conspiracy In 1972, a British scientist sounded the alarm that sugar – and not fat – was the greatest danger to our health. But his findings were ridiculed and his reputation ruined. How did the world's top nutrition scientists get it so wrong for so long?
"Nutrition scientists are angry with the press for distorting their findings, politicians for failing to heed them, and the rest of us for overeating and under-exercising. In short, everyone – business, media, politicians, consumers – is to blame. Everyone, that is, except scientists. [...] These sharp fluctuations in Yudkin's stock have had little to do with the scientific method, and a lot to do with the unscientific way in which the field of nutrition has conducted itself over the years. [...] [S]ugar is processed in the liver, where it turns to fat, before entering the bloodstream. [...] [W]hile humans have always been carnivorous, carbohydrates only became a major component of their diet 10,000 years ago, with the advent of mass agriculture. Sugar – a pure carbohydrate, with all fibre and nutrition stripped out – has been part of western diets for just 300 years; in evolutionary terms, it is as if we have, just this second, taken our first dose of it. [...] This makes scientific inquiry prone to the eternal rules of human social life: deference to the charismatic, herding towards majority opinion, punishment for deviance, and intense discomfort with admitting to error. [...] [I]t is a biological error to confuse what a person puts in their mouth with what it becomes after it is swallowed. [...] France, the country with the highest intake of saturated fat, has the lowest rate of heart disease. [...] The circular logic is symptomatic of a field with an unusually high propensity for ignoring evidence that does not fit its conventional wisdom. [...] By opening the gates of publishing to all, the internet has flattened hierarchies everywhere they exist. [...] The nutritional establishment has proved itself, over the years, skilled at ad hominem takedowns."
Europe to America: Your love of air-conditioning is stupid
I don't have much to add to the title of this article. I don't like heat, but extreme air-conditioning, as encountered in the US, is completely unreasonable.
The e-mail Larry Page should have written to James Damore Last week this newspaper said Alphabet's boss should write a "detailed, ringing rebuttal" of a viral anti-diversity memo sent at Google. Here is how we imagine it
"Software engineering requires a broad mix of skills involving both "people" and "things". Teamwork, in particular, is important—the stereotypical image of the geek working alone in his basement is far from reality. [...] Did you know that car seats and office desks are the wrong proportions for most women, or that many drugs in widespread use were only ever tested on men?" A complex and sensitive topic. I'm still not sure what to think about the "Google memo". I have not read it. This article sounds reasonable, so I'm ready to conclude that the memo had a lot of good and bad things in it. Should his author have been fired? I'm not so sure about it.
An MIT Scientist Claims That This Pill Is the Fountain of Youth Leonard Guarente is certain he's succeeded where doctors (and quacks) before him have failed. His pill will either extend lives or tarnish his career.
"Scientists have recognized since the 1930s that calorie-restricted diets extend life in mammals (we evolved, the thinking goes, to withstand periods of famine, downshifting our metabolism in order to defer reproduction until we were again in a time of plenty). [...] [T]he two active compounds in Basis, pterostilbene and NR, are natural (occurring in blueberries and milk, respectively) and have long been available separately as supplements. [...] Besides Basis, he takes a low-dose statin, aspirin, and vitamin D; weighs himself every day; eats a mostly Mediterranean diet (red wine included); and does a mix of cardio (on the elliptical machine, ever since his knees wore out and he had to stop running) and strength training three days a week. [...] [Eric Marcotulli] also practices intermittent fasting, which means he consumes no calories during the 18 hours between 6 p.m. and noon."
After exploring Saturn, Cassini faces a fiery end So long, and thanks for the postcards
"The suicide mission was chosen for two reasons. One was that it would provide a great deal of valuable science. The other was that it would remove the risk that the probe might, in the distant future, collide with one of Saturn's moons, potentially contaminating it with hardy microbes that might have survived the journey from Earth. [...] When the probe analysed the plumes in 2008 it found traces of relatively complicated organic molecules that might serve as precursors to life. More recently, in April, it discovered traces of hydrogen in Enceladus's plumes. [...] Besides Titan, only Mars and Earth have similar features. And while Mars's rivers and lakes have been dry for hundreds of millions of years, Titan's are still wet today."
The amazing fertility of the older mind It's never too late to learn – if you go about it in the right way.
So, yes, it's apparently never too late to learn new things, even if our abilities go down with age. "[T]he brain boost of taking up a new hobby may trump so-called "brain training" computer games and apps, with study after study finding that these programs fail to bring about meaningful benefits in real life."
The power of a 'not-to-do' list Rather than setting goals you can achieve, look for mistakes you'd like to avoid.
I already have a not-to-do list, but for tasks/projects I've decided not to do but that I wanted to do at some point. It's a kind of "trash log". The idea of a list of things I don't want to do in the future is intriguing. It might take the form of a checklist at the top of my to-do lists, i.e. a list of filters my tasks/projects have to pass before being added to my to-do lists.
Spend More Time Alone
"The right way to define "solitude" is as a subjective state in which you're isolated from input from other minds. [...] Regular doses of solitude are crucial for the effective and resilient functioning of your brain."
Why you should stop using Git rebase
I'm a fan of git rebase and tend to avoid git merge, so this article gave me something to think about. I'm still not convinced. I guess it depends on the team/project and the processes.
Why Futurist Ray Kurzweil Isn't Worried About Technology Stealing Your Job Innovation will do more good than harm, he says.
I've read five of Ray Kurzweil's books so far, so I think I'm familiar with his point of view. He has always been very positive about technology, but I think his vision here is incomplete: "don't worry, for every job we eliminate, we're going to create more jobs at the top of the skill ladder". This sounds like the standard "there will always be jobs for humans" we hear a lot when talking about automation and artificial intelligence. The problem is that this idea is just wrong. At least if humans and machines don't merge together. And I guess for this idea to make sense coming from Kurzweil, this is probably what he has in mind: human-machine merging. So, yes, there will be jobs for humans in the future, if humans become more intelligent/skilled by merging with computers. Otherwise, we will be left in the dust.
7 Books That Will Change How You See The World
1) Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert 2) On The Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche 3) Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Taleb 4) The True Believer by Eric Hoffer 5) Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud 6) The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil 7) The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. I've read 1) and 6) so far. I agree that they're good books.
How to Pick Your Life Partner – Part 2
"This isn't to say people shouldn't work on self-improvement, but when it comes to a life partnership, the healthy attitude is, "Every person comes with a set of flaws, these are my partner's, and they're part of the package I knowingly chose to spend my life with." [...] Relationships are hard. Expecting a strong relationship without treating it like a rigorous part-time job is like expecting to have a great career without putting in any effort."
How to Pick Your Life Partner – Part 1
"When you choose a life partner, you're choosing a lot of things, including your parenting partner and someone who will deeply influence your children, your eating companion for about 20,000 meals, your travel companion for about 100 vacations, your primary leisure time and retirement friend, your career therapist, and someone whose day you'll hear about 18,000 times. [...] But if someone went to school to learn about how to pick a life partner and take part in a healthy relationship, if they charted out a detailed plan of action to find one, and if they kept their progress organized rigorously in a spreadsheet, society says they're A) an over-rational robot, B) way too concerned about this, and C) a huge weirdo. No, when it comes to dating, society frowns upon thinking too much about it, instead opting for things like relying on fate, going with your gut, and hoping for the best. [...] [S]ociety frowns much more upon a 37-year-old single person than it does an unhappily married 37-year-old with two children. It makes no sense."
How to Live More Wisely Around Our Phones
I realized only at the end of the "article" (which I added to Instapaper from Facebook) that it's part of The Book of Life, which is sponsored by The School of Life. So I guess the whole point of this article is to show the limits of our smartphones and to motivate us to be more mindful, more focused, more aware that our time is limited, more at ease with being alone, less afraid of being bored. We need to pay more attention. It's refreshing, because it doesn't demonize our phones. It just starts from what they are: "The dark truth is that it's become very hard to find anyone (and certainly anything) more interesting than one's smartphone." But current phones are largely imperfect: "We are still waiting for phones that will help us properly address the greatest struggles of our lives, the ones at the summit of Abraham Maslow's famous pyramid." An example of limitation mentioned in the article: "But while our phones can record the moment they can't - as yet - bring our submerged reactions to the surface. They can tell us what time the museum opens but not why we - uniquely, we - should go there."
Intelligence and the DNA Revolution Scientists identify 22 genes associated with intelligence
Just a short report on the recent discovery that "[of] the over 12 million SNPs analyzed, 336 correlated significantly with intelligence, implicating 22 different genes." And the result is quite strong: "As a check on the replicability of their results, the scientists then tested for correlations between the 336 SNPs and level of education—a variable known to be strongly correlated with intelligence—in an independent sample of nearly 200,000 people who had previously undergone DNA testing. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the SNPs correlated in the same direction with education as they did with intelligence." The article includes the usual, tactful reminder: "Of course, intelligence is not solely the product of DNA—and no scientist studying intelligence thinks otherwise." We should get more results like this in the future, thanks to genome-wide association studies (GWAS).
How to Recognize Burnout Before You're Burned Out
I read this article because burnout seems to be a problem in the "software development / Hacker News" community. I don't know if I'm at risk, but, without knowing it, I'm apparently already doing some things to avoid burnout (breathing exercises / meditation, frequent breaks, exercising, humor, etc.).
Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff, and Children Who Don't Want It
This is a topic of high interest to me, because I have accumulated a lot of stuff myself, including at my parents' house, that I am now slowly throwing away, selling, recycling, scanning, etc. My goal is to have as little physical possessions as possible. I guess my parents kind of know that I'm not interested in their stuff and that they should do something about it while they're still alive, but we haven't discussed this seriously yet.
Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime Research on naps, meditation, nature walks and the habits of exceptional artists and athletes reveals how mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity
To "increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity", we need to sleep well at night, take power naps (10 minutes is enough), take frequent small breaks at work, meditate regularly (10-20 minutes a day is enough), get out to nature from time to time, and take vacations. There are more and more studies proving that it's beneficial. Basically, we have to stop trying to be busy at all times (e.g. by using our smartphones, etc.).
Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they're on the brink of a mental-health crisis.
First: Betteridge's law of headlines. "There is compelling evidence that the devices we've placed in young people's hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy. [...] 18-year-olds now act more like 15-year-olds used to, and 15-year-olds more like 13-year-olds. [...] Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy. [...] Social-networking sites like Facebook promise to connect us to friends. But the portrait of iGen teens emerging from the data is one of a lonely, dislocated generation. [...] Social media levy a psychic tax on the teen doing the posting as well, as she anxiously awaits the affirmation of comments and likes. [...] In my conversations with teens, I saw hopeful signs that kids themselves are beginning to link some of their troubles to their ever-present phone." So, basically, we have to learn how to use smartphones with moderation and we have to find ways to teach our children how to use them that way. It's a difficult problem, but there is hope.
Why I'm not a big fan of Scrum
I'm not either. As a consultant, I had to work in a team who used Scrum (the whole process, with the daily meetings and all the other meetings). For a future job, a company/team using Scrum would definitely be a negative point for me. "Nowadays devs are communicating on all kinds of channels (email, Slack, Github/Gitlab, ticketing system) and tracking detailed progress on some of these. What's the point in having them stand around for another ten minutes to repeat a few standard sentences? [...] If neither the behavior nor performance change, why even bother with refactoring? [...] Claiming that Scrum is generic is admitting that it is not cut for the specific nature of software development. [...] To make it short, my dream workflow would combine offline working, continuous analysis of the sources of complexity and errors, and detailed, open-ended discussion on the path on which the team is approaching the goal (or not). The correct way of building software should align the understanding that devs have of the problem and the complexity involved with the aims of the other parts of the company."
A Guide To Intermittent Fasting This intermittent fasting guide shows you how to lose weight, improve your brain health and live a long and healthy life.
Fasting / intermittent fasting never passed my "BS filter", until I read this article. "It gives you more energy, reduces body fat, helps with brain function, fights off diseases and increases your chances of living a long and healthy life." This really sounds too good to be true. "Breakfast is NOT the most important meal of the day." This is hard for me to accept, but I don't see why it wouldn't be true. The benefits exposed in the article: 1) "It supports with hormone regulation and lowers diabetes II risk" 2) "It helps with calorie restriction" 3) "It helps you lose weight and body fat" 4) "It reduces inflammation" 5) "It helps your cells clean and repair themselves" 6) "It helps the brain create new neurons and protects against brain damage" 7) "It regenerates the immune system". I will try the "17/18hr fast" used by the article's author the next few weeks (once a week).
Michael Bland shares his incredible stories of working with Prince, Soul Asylum, Westerberg and more
Michael Bland is one of my favorite Prince drummers. I was a bit disappointed that he was not part of the New Power Generation tour this year. He obviously has a lot of fun anecdotes to tell. "I remember one of the last conversations I had with Prince, he was talking about how he had dinner with Elton John and they were talking about how there's entirely too much music being made on this planet right now." Too much music is being made. I don't agree with Prince about many things, but this is probably something I could agree with.
NASA Destroyed Hundreds of Mystery Tapes Found in a Dead Man's Basement More than 300 data reels, some from Apollo-Era missions, were discovered in a deceased Pennsylvania man's basement, FOIA documents reveal.
"Salvaging their data would've been "very costly," according to one NASA archivist who examined the artifacts. [...] During the 1970s and 1980s, surplussed items were frequently auctioned off by NASA. Technology became obsolete, funding dried up, or there just wasn't enough space. Some items survive today in private collections; others were repurposed as scrap. Other times, employees and contractors took materials that could have otherwise been destroyed. [...] As one NASA archivist put it: "It really feels like archaeology to me."" Yes, archiving costs a lot of money and is a lot of work. This is a bit sad to think that a lot of data (including images and videos) have been lost by NASA.
Blockchain: the revolution we're not ready for
"Blockchain is going to upend entire societies. It's going to enable new kinds of governance systems that were before only the daydreams of utopians and philosophers." I don't understand a lot about blockchains, at the moment, but there sure are a lot of people very excited about the concept!
On Marrying the Wrong Person
"A good partnership is not so much one between two healthy people (there aren't many of these on the planet), it's one between two demented people who have had the skill or luck to find a non-threatening conscious accommodation between their relative insanities." The reasons exposed in the article: 1) "We don't understand ourselves" 2) "We don't understand other people" 3) "We aren't used to being happy" 4) "Being single is so awful" 5) "Instinct has too much prestige" 6) "We don't go to Schools of Love" 7) "We want to freeze happiness" 8) "We believe we are special" 9) "We want to stop thinking about Love". So, yes, marriage is not something to take lightly. It's also a lot of work after the wedding.
How Aging Research Is Changing Our Lives An interview with Eric Verdin, CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.
"First, if you hear the word immortality, just run. [...] One thing to realize about the inequality is that the strongest risk factor for short lifespan is your socioeconomic status. Poverty is the other big risk factor for short lifespan. [...] The thing that you and I can do today is nutrition and exercise. Exercise is an incredible anti-aging medicine. [...] [M]edicine will be more preventative than curative. People talk about healthcare, but in essence what we have right now is not healthcare. It's sick care. [...] I am an avid exerciser and I try to do episodic fasting. I don't know if it will make me live longer, but it certainly makes me feel better."
We Aren't Built to Live in the Moment
"When making plans, they reported higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress than at other times, presumably because planning turns a chaotic mass of concerns into an organized sequence. [...] While most people tend to be optimistic, those suffering from depression and anxiety have a bleak view of the future — and that in fact seems to be the chief cause of their problems, not their past traumas nor their view of the present. [...] The brain's long-term memory has often been compared to an archive, but that's not its primary purpose. Instead of faithfully recording the past, it keeps rewriting history. [...] Coaching of eyewitnesses can cause people to reconstruct their memory so that no trace of the original is left. [...] To exploit the past, we metabolize it by extracting and recombining relevant information to fit novel situations. [...] The main purpose of emotions is to guide future behavior and moral judgments, according to researchers in a new field called prospective psychology. Emotions enable you to empathize with others by predicting their reactions." So, to oversimplify: to be happy, be optimistic.
The Four Desires Driving All Human Behavior: Bertrand Russell's Magnificent Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
The four desires: 1) acquisitiveness ("the wish to possess as much as possible of goods, or the title to goods") 2) rivalry 3) vanity 4) love of power. But love of power can also be a positive force. Secondary desires: 1) love of excitement (to escape boredom) 2) the need for physical activity (which is difficult to satisfy given the "sedentary nature of modern life").
The more I think about it, the less I'm sure where I stand. A couple of years ago, I would have said I'm a hard determinist. Now, I'm not sure whether I'm an "illusionist" or a semicompatibilist. What I like about semicompatibilism is that it doesn't pretend free will and moral responsability are necessarily linked.
41 — Seek endarkenment Yearly review of my life
I also do a yearly review of my life. Buster Benson is a huge inspiration for some of the things I'm doing. An interesting, not-so-personal idea: "Instead of spending hours every day reading about the latest terrible thing Trump has done, let's instead start thinking about how we begin to include the people who have had the same salary for 20 years, even while everything has gotten more expensive and more inaccessible."
How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off
"You can't program a child to become creative. Try to engineer a certain kind of success, and the best you'll get is an ambitious robot. If you want your children to bring original ideas into the world, you need to let them pursue their passions, not yours." It doesn't sound too surprising.
Popular People Live Longer
As the titles says, popular people seem to live longer. There's an evolutionary explanation for that: "Millenniums ago, individuals who had no peers to protect them were vulnerable to injury or attack. Those whose bodies preemptively activated a "pro-inflammatory" response that prepared them to heal from any impending wounds were the most likely to survive." The moral of the story is that you should aim for likability, not status.
Atheism More Common Than Assumed, But It's Complicated Summary: New research suggests atheists may represent between 20-35 percent of the US popluation. Findings challenge prevailing theories that atheism is rare in the population.
This reminds me of studies in experimental philosophy trying to determine if people believe in free will or not. Most people have probably never really thought about the question, so the results should be taken with a pinch of salt. But the idea that there are more atheists than people willing to admit, even anonymously, that they do not believe in God seems reasonable.
For an Inclusive Culture, Try Working Less
Yet another article about working less. Am I biased? :) Anyway, this time, it's an article about how a clear limit between work and personal life can lead to a more diverse workplace. "When our office culture is focused on business rather than socializing, we reduce the number of ways in which we all have to be the same. When we do that, we allow diversity to flourish." An intriguing idea. This is the first time I read about it.
This Morning Routine will Save You 20+ Hours Per Week
I read a vaguely similar article two weeks ago: "The Advantage Of Being A Little Underemployed". I'm already convinced that mornings are important. That's when I exercise, meditate, and have a balanced breakfast. Now the idea in the article is that mornings are important because that's when you're supposed to be more productive, so I guess that means I shouldn't exercise before going to work. But that's when I'm most motivated to do it. One thing I could change is the order of my morning routine, which is currently: exercise, breakfast, and meditation. Apparently, you're not supposed to exercise on an empty stomach. So maybe I should eat a bit of my breakfast, meditate, exercise, and then eat the rest of my breakfast?
Let's Talk About Self-Driving Cars Overview of a presentation by Andreessen Horowitz on the future of autonomous vehicles
This article is based on the "16 Questions About Self-Driving Cars" video by Frank Chen, which I had already seen, so I didn't learn much. I can't wait for this particular change, which is very likely, I think: "This will cause the car industry to look more like an airline industry, where you don't necessarily pick which plane you would like to fly on but dedicate your money to a fleet provider — airline company." I'm not convinced by the fact that commutes will become more interesting, though. Even if I'm not driving, there aren't many things I can do in a car or bus. I can't really read or work on a laptop without getting sick. I can't really sleep (I'm a light sleeper, so I cannot even sleep on a plane, for example). So I would have to do what I'm already doing, i.e. listening to podcasts. Unless driverless cars can someday drive in such a way that I won't get sick (which could be possible, I guess).
The hard truths of navigating ageism in IT In an industry that favors youth over experience, the best defense against age discrimination may be avoiding becoming a victim in the first place
Nothing really new here. A couple of good advices. "Many employers believe that older workers are reluctant to try new technologies [...] Because age discrimination is difficult to prove in a lawsuit, the best defense might be to do everything you can to avoid becoming a victim, McCann says. That includes being a lifelong learner and staying on top of developments in your field at every stage of your career, and seeking out training at your workplace and on your own. [...] It's probably a good idea to also delete references to older technologies that are no longer in use. [...] Also be ready for questions such as whether you are overqualified for the position or if you have difficulty dealing with a younger or less experienced supervisor".
How to Sleep Should you drink more coffee? Should you take melatonin? Can you train yourself to need less sleep? A physician's guide to sleep in a stressful age.
"Try to keep a somewhat constant bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends. Keep caffeine use moderate, even if you don't feel like a nighttime coffee affects you. The same goes for nightcaps. (Not necessarily a joyless suggestion—maybe you can meet a friend for a beer at 4 p.m. instead of 10 p.m.) Use screens judiciously, too. Remember that even on night mode, a phone is shooting light into your brain. Have sex with someone instead. Or, sometimes preferable, read something on paper." So, in summary, there are no miracle solutions.
The Advantage Of Being A Little Underemployed To realize how outdated the five-day, 40-hour workweek is, you have to know where it came from.
"A lot of knowledge jobs basically never stop, and without structuring time to think and be curious you wind up less efficient during the hours that are devoted to sitting at your desk cranking out work." As a software engineer, I'm convinced that we work too much (me: about 40 hours per week, 8 hours per day). But I'm also lazy, so I don't know what the optimal number of hours per day or week is, from a creativity standpoint. To be perfectly honest, my ideal workweek would probably be close to 20-40% of what it is right now. I can't wait for the Singularity!
What Mirrors Tell Us About Animal Minds ... including our own.
"It's a bit about what animals see reflected in the mirror. But it's also about what we see of ourselves reflected in animals." The mirror test is an imperfect one, because we have to make at least some assumptions about what goes on in the animal's mind to know what to expect from the test.
Why Stoicism is one of the best mind-hacks ever devised Indifference is a power - As legions of warriors and prisoners can attest, Stoicism is not grim resolve but a way to wrest happiness from adversity
"Any misfortune 'that lies outside the sphere of choice' should be considered an opportunity to strengthen our resolve, not an excuse to weaken it. This is one of the truly great mind-hacks ever devised, this willingness to convert adversity to opportunity." This sounds reasonable, but easier said than done. "By keeping the very worst that can happen in our heads constantly, the Stoics tell us, we immunise ourselves from the dangers of too much so-called 'positive thinking', a product of the mind that believes a realistic accounting of the world can lead only to despair." That's something I do a lot ("keeping the very worst that can happen in our heads"). I don't know it that works. "A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy­" is a book I bought a couple of years ago. I haven't read it yet. I probably should.
Don't Let Facebook Make You Miserable
"It is now official. Scholars have analyzed the data and confirmed what we already knew in our hearts. Social media is making us miserable." After a 2-year break, I started using Facebook again. It's still a mess. You can't really have lists like you can on Twitter. So I still can't use Facebook like I would like to use it. And it's frustrating. The result is that I sometimes don't check my Facebook feed for days. It's not a bad thing, of course. But I still miss the good content on Facebook (the statuses where people don't brag too much about how their life is fantastic, that is).
Reading Is Forgetting
This is something that happens not only for books, but also for articles, movies, podcasts, etc. I used to rationalize this by saying that, even if we forget most of what we read or hear, it still subconsciously changes us and how we think. But this is not enough. And I don't think the solution is to keep rereading the same 5-10 books (although it's still a good idea to reread books we loved). I'm convinced there are way too many good books for that idea to make sense. The solution is to change the way we read articles/books, listen to podcasts, etc. My current attempt at becoming better at this, in 2017, is to never read an article or a book, never listen to a podcast, etc. without having at least a few words or sentences to write about them. I already clearly see an effect on the way I listen to podcasts. I'm not sure about books yet.
Being A Developer After 40 This is the talk I have given at App Builders Switzerland on April 25th, 2016.
I'm almost 40, so this is a topic I'm highly interested in. A few pieces of advice that sound reasonable: forget the hype, keep on learning, send the elevator down / teach, fight complexity, etc. I don't know about the rest. "The most important thing to remember is that your age does not matter." It shouldn't matter (at least in a negative way), but, unfortunately, it still does. We have to "fight" (or, rather, educate our managers, our colleagues, etc.) until it doesn't.
Keith Jarrett: A Multitude of Angels
I envy some people's ability to talk about music. I'm passionate about music. I'm deeply moved by it. But I don't really know how to convey my excitement. Anyway, this is a good review. "A Multitude of Angels" is Keith Jarrett's latest album/release (as of today). This is his 80-something-th album and a 4-CD set, which, in itself, is already impressive. This is also an "archival" release of Keith Jarrett's last solo concerts structured around 35-80 uninterrupted sets, recorded in 1996. To be honest, I have only listened to this album a couple of times. I really need to listen to it again (and repeatedly). But you don't listen to this type of music like you listen to Britney Spears' "Toxic".
Why Nobody Cares the President Is Lying
"Mr. Trump and his allies in the right media have already turned the term "fake news" against its critics, essentially draining it of any meaning." This is a bit like the word "racist": it has lost almost all meaning, because it's used in too many contexts (mainly to imply a discrimination against religions, cultures, nationalities, etc.). "The real danger is that, inundated with "alternative facts," many voters will simply shrug, asking, "What is truth?" — and not wait for an answer." This is worrying. All relativisms are. Sometimes this is done in the name of tolerance ("all opinions have some value"), but here this is way more pernicious.
The Utter Uselessness of Job Interviews
It's somewhat reassuring to know that researchers are thinking about better ways to conduct job interviews and that solutions exist. Selfishly I guess I'm not that concerned anyway, since in my field (software engineering / computer science), we tend to use technical interviews as a way to predict the performance of a candidate, and they're probably less useless than unstructured interviews.
Pourquoi l'humanité est-elle carnivore? Les humains ne tuent pas pour manger de la viande mais mangent de la viande pour tuer: telle est la thèse renversante de la philosophe Florence Burgat
La question est clairement posée : "Les solutions alternatives à l'alimentation carnée sont en effet aujourd'hui nombreuses et connues; et si l'on considère en outre que la famine est largement entretenue par la mobilisation des terres et autres ressources nécessaires à l'élevage, la question n'en devient que plus aiguë: pourquoi diable l'humanité est-elle carnivore?" Une fois de plus, je suis d'accord avec la conclusion du livre dont il est question : "l'auteure montre comment l'humanité pourrait à la fois maintenir la place de la viande dans son imaginaire, et se passer des meurtres de masse en développant les simili-carnés végétaux (connus dès le Xe siècle en Chine), ou la viande in vitro produite en laboratoire."
Smartphones are the New Cigarettes
I'm constantly trying to be more focused, by meditating, having clear to-do lists, doing one thing at a time, not using my smartphone "too much" (whatever that means) when I'm with other people, etc. The problem is that even though we can try to make an effort for ourselves, this is not enough: "Their inability to focus interferes with our (already-fragile) ability to focus. The same way second-hand smoke harms the lungs of people around the smoker, smartphones harm the attention and focus of people around the smartphone user." Smartphones are a fantastic tool, but I tend to agree with the author: smartphones are also an annoying problem.
The arrival of artificial intelligence
Humanity has a long story of automating work (logic/mathematics, tools, technology, computers, artificial intelligence, machine learning). "To date automation has displaced blue collar workers; are we prepared for machine learning to displace huge numbers of white collar ones?" How many people will be able to live meaningful lives without work? I find this is a hard question. Again, like in the case of "immortality", I really don't know how we will be able to adapt to those changes.
How Paisley Park's Archives Director is Telling Prince's Story As we approach the one-year anniversary of Prince's death, we talk with Angela Marchese, Paisley Park's head curator, about Prince's vision for a museum, what she's finding, and more.
I'd like to read a similar article about the archiving/inventory work on the audiovisual material found at Paisley Park. I hope they're very serious about this, as I'm far more interested in the music/recordings Prince left behind than his clothes...
Silicon Valley's quest to live forever Can billions of dollars' worth of high-tech research succeed in making death optional?
Some excerpts: "The proposition that we can live forever is obvious. It doesn't violate the laws of physics, so we will achieve it." "It's hard to run a clinical trial on subjects who take eighty years to die." "It's based on the frustration of many successful rich people that life is too short: 'We have all this money, but we only get to live a normal life span.'" I've been interested in this topic for a long time now. People have probably been rationalizing death for millennia (death is unavoidable, death is what makes things important/beautiful, life would be boring without death, death is only the end of our physical life, etc.). The fact is that nobody really wants to die (except very depressed or very ill people). As said in one of the previous excerpts: preventing death doesn't violate the laws of physics, so science will manage to make death optional. One of the questions is when? In 2050? In 2500? With billions of dollars invested in the research, we might see results sooner than expected. Also, how will we manage a population with more and more very old people (200 or 1000 years old)? Will people accept the idea that we should stop making babies? I really don't see how our societies will be able to adapt to such radical changes.
Into the woods: how one man survived alone in the wilderness for 27 years At the age of 20, Christopher Knight parked his car on a remote trail in Maine and walked away with only the most basic supplies. He had no plan. His chief motivation was to avoid contact with people. This is his story
I'm very intrigued by people leaving civilization behind. I loved movies such as Into the Wild (which I've seen twice so far) and Wild. I was naturally expecting something similar. A person living in the wood for 27 years? How did he manage to eat? Spoiler alert: he actually stole food from cabins in the area, before being caught by the police. A bit disappointing, to say the least. I guess the conclusion (from the article, as well as from the movies I've seen) is that you cannot really live all alone by yourself. The most intriguing part of the article was the part about the loss of identity that happens when you don't live with other people. This reminds me of the illusion of the self Sam Harris and others are talking about regularly (i.e. when meditating long enough, you're supposed to reach a point where it becomes "obvious" that the self is an illusion, that it doesn't really exist - I've never really experienced this, but I think I know what they mean).
Repeat After Me: Cold Does Not Increase Odds of Catching Cold
Actually, I've beeen repeating this for years, but without knowing if it was still true. Apparently, it is. Cold does not increase odds of catching cold.
London-Paris electric flight 'in decade'
We need electric planes, as jet fuel will become harder to get and more expensive, but one of the things that's also exciting to me is the following: "you can have an electric plane that's substantially less loud than a fuel plane". I hate noise. I want to live in a world with as little noise as possible.
Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason.
There seems to be an evolutionary explanation for why we are much more sensitive to weaknesses in other people's arguments than in our own arguments. At first, it can seem counterintuitive, as we should be open to new information, at least when it comes to new threats. "[...] reason evolved to perform, which is to prevent us from getting screwed by the other members of our group. Living in small bands of hunter-gatherers, our ancestors were primarily concerned with their social standing, and with making sure that they weren't the ones risking their lives on the hunt while others loafed around in the cave. There was little advantage in reasoning clearly, while much was to be gained from winning arguments." Another bias: we think we understand things way more than we actually understand them. It fostered progress ("When it comes to new technologies, incomplete understanding is empowering"), but it's a problem when it comes to politics or health. Another bias that can be physiologically measured: "people experience genuine pleasure—a rush of dopamine—when processing information that supports their beliefs."
Did the Oscars Just Prove That We Are Living in a Computer Simulation?
Betteridge's law of headlines is respected, once again: the answer is no. This article is not serious (or, at least, I can't read it seriously). We might be living in a simulation (I'm open to that possibility, although I'm still not convinced it really makes sense). But I don't think that any of the examples in the article (the Oscars, Trump, etc.) is an indication that we do.
The Best Music for Productivity? Silence Studies show that for most types of cognitively demanding tasks, anything but quiet hurts performance.
This article kind of contradicts the previous one. The conclusion/takeaway is: "Take a break every few hours and listen to music for 15 minutes." It sounds reasonable. Or listen to music only when doing repetitive/mundane tasks. Or work on the problem itself (office noises), by asking people to be more disciplined (talking outside of the office, etc.).
The Science Backed Ways Music Affects Your Brain and Productivity Plus 11 artists to listen to while you work
"Music can help relieve negative emotions like stress, anxiety and depression." That's why we tend to think that music might be better than the sounds/noises of our offices (chatter, phones, etc.): because we like listening to music. "Listening to music with lyrics may actually help people working on repetitive or mundane tasks, perhaps because the distracting nature of lyrical music can provide a kind of relief from the monotony of boring work." My problem is that I rarely work on repetitive tasks (software engineering). Now, if I'm sick or tired, listening to music might be a way to do something instead of... not much.
The Future of Not Working As automation reduces the need for human labor, some Silicon Valley executives think a universal income will be the answer — and the beta test is happening in Kenya.
I'm very interested in basic income and effective altruism. I had already heard of GiveDirectly, probably via William MacAskill, who initially was not convinced by the effectiveness of that nonprofit organization (see his 2012 and 2014 comments), but later changed his mind. This article discusses how GiveDirectly works in the field (in rural Kenya). I must admit that I'm still not intuitively convinced that giving money directly to very poor people is a good idea (compared to financing education, health, etc.), but I'm happy that it actually is.
Why Nothing Works Anymore Technology has its own purposes.
This article sounds like somebody describing the empty half of a half-full, half-empty glass. Yes, search results on Google are not perfect, but is it easier to find information nowadays or before Google existed? Before the Internet existed? Yes, Amazon is also far from perfect, but is it easier to buy/order things nowadays or before Amazon existed? Before the Internet existed? And yes, automation is leading to serious problems (low-wage work, etc.). Yet, this article doesn't even mention the obvious solution everyone has been talking about for years (basic income). The concluding paragraph is talking about the AI control problem without even naming it. And, no, I haven't had any problem with automatic-flush toilets in recent years, so maybe this is a US thing?
Musical nostalgia: The psychology and neuroscience for song preference and the reminiscence bump Why do we love the music we heard as teenagers?
This is clearly a bias and we have to be aware of it when we judge the music we listen to: do we like it because we discovered it when we were teenagers or do we like it because it is good (i.e. because it has objective merits)?
How to Be a Stoic Born nearly two thousand years before Darwin and Freud, Epictetus seems to have anticipated a way out of their prisons.
This is a short article about how Epictetus got many things right more than 2000 years ago. I'm quite interested in stoicism. The video "Stoicism 101" by Massimo Pigliucci, that I watched a few months ago, was quite good. I will probably also read "A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy" later this year.
The mythical 10x programmer
There are a lot of "10x programmer" articles. This one is not bad. I guess the conclusion is always the same: you can be a programmer without knowing too many things (the barrier to entry to become a programmer is really low), but you have to know a lot of things to be a good programmer. Also, some of the things you need to know are not technical per se (avoiding complex designs, avoiding "perfection", etc.).
The roots of technological singularity can be traced backed to the Stone Age The true obstacle for the human race has always been overcoming our own organic matter, not the threat posed by intelligent machines
"With clay tablets, humans overcame the limitations of their brains 5,000 years ago. The first singularity took place in the Stone Age." I don't agree with their use of the word "singularity", but the first writing is an important step towards the Singularity, as it allowed information to start circulating outside of our brains.
What makes the perfect office?
"What people love, instead, is the ability to control the space in which they work". I sure wouldn't want people to tell me how to organize my office. Personally, I enjoy a clear desk. And a coffee machine very close to my desk.
On Getting Old(er) in Tech
This is a topic I'm interested in, as I'm approaching my 40s and I'm a software engineer. tl;dr: you have to keep learning.
Is the Default Mode of the Brain to Suffer?
"When the brain is "at rest," it's doing anything but resting." This is obvious to anybody who's ever tried to meditate. The good news seems to be that there's mounting evidence that becoming more aware of what's going on in our minds (e.g. by meditating) changes our default state (our "default mode network", or DMN) in a positive way.
The Teletext Salvagers: How VHS is bringing teletext back from the dead Teletext died on 23 October 2012. Now, digital archeologists are digging through VHS tapes to get it back
This is brilliant. My position is that we should archive everything, as much as possible. I was a fan of teletext in the 80s, so it's kind of sad to think that all those pages are now probably lost.
How Camus and Sartre split up over the question of how to be free
So I guess the question is how ideas can influence politics. Do you compromise or do you fight (using violence if needed)? Do you want absolute justice (according to your ideology) or do you want communication? You can't have both.
The secret to living a meaningful life Your ambitions to improve your life do not need to be confined by your personality.
The title is a clickbait, of course. Our core projects affect our happiness, so they should feel attainable and be aligned with our values. Nothing that Getting Things Done (GTD) hasn't said before, I guess.
The science of Westworld A summary of recent artificial intelligence research
"A summary of recent artificial intelligence research" using Westworld, one of my favorite shows, as an illustration. This works well and the article touches on some complex topics/issues (intermediate tests towards a more complete Turing test, memory and neural networks, AI control problem, etc.).
Facebook is terrifying
I'm not terrified. Is there anything wrong with me? More seriously, I do have things to hide (my passwords, for one thing), but I'm less concerned than most people about privacy issues.
Pourquoi des économistes votent non à la RIE III Oui, il nous faut une réforme, mais évidemment pas celle-ci. Car la RIE III est bourrée de défauts, incohérente, et potentiellement dangereuse pour l'emploi, estime François Grin, économiste
Un article clair, qui semble indiquer que la RIE III est une mauvaise solution. Une source précieuse quelques jours avant les votations fédérales du 12 février 2017.
The 15-Minute Habit Worth Making Time For
I've been writing a diary since 1993, but it's always refreshing to read about the reasons other people are also journaling. I would just object to calling everything a "journal" when a more precise terminology is available (Getting Things Done, free writing, brainstorming, etc.). Or maybe I'm doing it wrong...
Why paper is the real 'killer app' With apps taking over our lives, there's a movement afoot as people yearn for simpler, technology-free times.
Paper might be a solution for brainstorming and note-taking, but I remain convinced that it's not a good way to organize tasks and projects. Simple online documents win, here.
Don't set goals for yourself—instead, create systems that make it easy for you to succeed
This is Scott Adams' approach. And also the basis for Getting Things Done (GTD), I guess. The article itself was not particularly illuminating.
You (and Your Therapist) Can Change Your Personality
We can (somewhat) change our personality, with the help of therapists. I don't really know what to do with this information. I guess it's a source of hope if we don't like some facets of our personalities?
A Painless Q-Learning Tutorial
A very easy-to-understand introduction to Q-learning.
Deep Q-Learning (Space Invaders)
Again, we live exciting times: we can now reproduce state-of-the-art AI papers by just using (relatively) easy-to-use libraries (Theano, here, but many others are available).
Food packaging is not the enemy of the environment that it is assumed to be Vacuum packs mean meat can stay on shelves for between five and eight days
Packaging is apparently very useful for meat and dairy products in particular. Another reason to become vegetarian/vegan?
Scientists say your "mind" isn't confined to your brain, or even your body
This reminds me of the concept of extended phenotype by Richard Dawkins, but I'm not convinced it is as useful here.
A "new" star should appear in 2022 A tale of scientific serendipity
We live exciting times. An astronomer has predicted a nova before it happened.
How to Convince Someone When Facts Fail Why worldview threats undermine evidence
Nothing new here: facts often don't convince people. Just like statistics don't convince people, but anecdotes sometimes do. We're all victims of cognitive biases.
Why 30 is the decade friends disappear — and what to do about it
People get busy with their work and their family. Nothing new, here. I'm not sure the "what to do about it" part of the title has really been addressed by the article. Is the solution really to be less demanding - or something like that?
2016 37
Date Title Subtitle
Why do we work so hard? Ryan Avent reckons that our jobs have become prisons from which we don't want to escape
On Digital Minimalism
A History of Hard Drives
A possible answer to the hard problem of consciousness: subjective experience is communication
The mystery of why you can't remember being a baby Babies are sponges for new information – so why does it take so long for us to form your first memory? BBC Future investigates.
Is Physical Law an Alien Intelligence? Alien life could be so advanced it becomes indistinguishable from physics.
Wherefore art thou Macintosh?
Why You Are Immortal (No Religion Involved)
Dalai Lama: Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded
Fighting Loneliness With Public Living Rooms Meet the group combating social isolation through cups of tea.
You Can Have Emotions You Don't Feel
‘Miles Davis Quintet: Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5' Review Bootlegs reveal the inner workings of Miles Davis's creative process.
Consciousness Isn't a Mystery. It's Matter.
Whose Responsibility is it to Provide Jobs to People?
Video Games Are Boring Maybe everything we know is wrong, says Brie Code
The Important Habit of Just Starting
Microsoft, I forgive you!
The comeback of cursive Once derided as a relic of the past, handwriting looks poised for a revival
The problems with philosophical zombies
Reflections of an "Old" Programmer
Am I Introverted, or Just Rude?
Lifelogging is dead (for now) A funny thing happened on the road to capturing everything: Hardware failed to keep up, and social media made it redundant.
Why can't we see that we're living in a golden age? If you look at all the data, it's clear there's never been a better time to be alive
What it feels like to be the last generation to remember life before the internet
The Unfortunate Physics of Male Urination
Adding ages The fight to cheat death is hotting up
‘HitnRUN Phase Two': An Oral History Of Prince's Last Studio Album
Would a Work-Free World Be So Bad? Fears of civilization-wide idleness are based too much on the downsides of being unemployed in a society premised on the concept of employment.
This Top-Secret Food Will Change the Way You Eat
How (and Why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars
A 'Brief' History of Neural Nets and Deep Learning, Part 1
The Mind–Body Problem, Scientific Regress and "Woo" The science of consciousness, far from converging on a sensible paradigm, is going backward
Plaidoyer pour une (bonne) communication sceptique Article invité de Xavier Ristat, auteur du blog Cygnification qui traite de la communication (et un peu du scepticisme)
The first self-driving car fatality proves nothing The death of a driver using the Tesla Autopilot function doesn't show that the technology is unsafe
The challenges of copying a mind
What's Next for Artificial Intelligence The best minds in the business—Yann LeCun of Facebook, Luke Nosek of the Founders Fund, Nick Bostrom of Oxford University and Andrew Ng of Baidu—on what life will look like in the age of the machines
Has Physics Gotten Something Really Important Really Wrong?