A list of articles I read. 83
2017 46
Date Title Subtitle
2017-05-25
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.
2017-05-20
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.
2017-05-11
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).
2017-05-11
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.
2017-05-10
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.
2017-05-02
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".
2017-04-30
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.
2017-04-29
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.
2017-04-29
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."
2017-04-29
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.
2017-04-17
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.
2017-04-17
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...
2017-04-08
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.
2017-03-28
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).
2017-03-24
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.
2017-03-24
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.
2017-03-23
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."
2017-03-13
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.
2017-03-13
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.).
2017-03-13
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.
2017-03-10
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.
2017-03-07
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?
2017-03-03
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)?
2017-03-03
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.
2017-03-01
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.).
2017-03-01
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.
2017-02-25
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.
2017-02-20
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.
2017-02-17
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.
2017-02-15
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.
2017-02-15
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.
2017-02-13
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.
2017-02-10
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.).
2017-02-05
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.
2017-02-03
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.
2017-02-02
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...
2017-01-30
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.
2017-01-25
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.
2017-01-24
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?
2017-01-23
A Painless Q-Learning Tutorial
A very easy-to-understand introduction to Q-learning.
2017-01-18
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).
2017-01-16
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?
2017-01-16
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.
2017-01-13
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.
2017-01-12
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.
2017-01-09
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
2016-12-21
Why do we work so hard? Ryan Avent reckons that our jobs have become prisons from which we don't want to escape
2016-12-21
On Digital Minimalism
2016-12-21
A History of Hard Drives
2016-12-21
A possible answer to the hard problem of consciousness: subjective experience is communication
2016-12-17
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.
2016-12-10
Is Physical Law an Alien Intelligence? Alien life could be so advanced it becomes indistinguishable from physics.
2016-12-02
Wherefore art thou Macintosh?
2016-12-02
Why You Are Immortal (No Religion Involved)
2016-11-25
Dalai Lama: Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded
2016-11-25
Fighting Loneliness With Public Living Rooms Meet the group combating social isolation through cups of tea.
2016-11-21
You Can Have Emotions You Don't Feel
2016-11-18
‘Miles Davis Quintet: Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5' Review Bootlegs reveal the inner workings of Miles Davis's creative process.
2016-11-18
Consciousness Isn't a Mystery. It's Matter.
2016-11-08
Whose Responsibility is it to Provide Jobs to People?
2016-11-08
Video Games Are Boring Maybe everything we know is wrong, says Brie Code
2016-11-04
The Important Habit of Just Starting
2016-11-01
Microsoft, I forgive you!
2016-10-12
The comeback of cursive Once derided as a relic of the past, handwriting looks poised for a revival
2016-10-12
The problems with philosophical zombies
2016-10-08
Reflections of an "Old" Programmer
2016-10-01
Am I Introverted, or Just Rude?
2016-09-30
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.
2016-08-30
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
2016-08-30
What it feels like to be the last generation to remember life before the internet
2016-08-18
The Unfortunate Physics of Male Urination
2016-08-17
Adding ages The fight to cheat death is hotting up
2016-08-17
‘HitnRUN Phase Two': An Oral History Of Prince's Last Studio Album
2016-08-17
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.
2016-08-16
This Top-Secret Food Will Change the Way You Eat
2016-08-16
How (and Why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars
2016-08-16
A 'Brief' History of Neural Nets and Deep Learning, Part 1
2016-07-31
The Mind–Body Problem, Scientific Regress and "Woo" The science of consciousness, far from converging on a sensible paradigm, is going backward
2016-07-31
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)
2016-07-30
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
2016-07-18
The challenges of copying a mind
2016-07-17
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
2016-06-28
Has Physics Gotten Something Really Important Really Wrong?