If you can’t watch this right now, it’s worth bookmarking for later. This is one of the best explanations of computing that I’ve ever heard. Richard Feynman explained in 1985 how you get from a simple filing system to an automated machine. It’s clear and funny and prescient: at the end he touches on surveillance and politics, how we can compare humans and computers, and what that means about intelligence.


Treasure Frey, The Search

(Reblogged from mythologyofblue)
With anything you think you know a bit about, you’re probably tempted to rely on your own experience to make an inductive generalization. That can work if you really know what you’re talking about, but it doesn’t work if you’re just using that way of doing it, on another context, where your knowledge is not so secure.
This comes from the lectures of Marianne Talbot, Critical Reasoning for Beginners, at Oxford (lecture 4 approx. 30:50), which are otherwise very good lectures introducing the principles of argumentation. Induction is a type of commonsense, and so when Hume explained why it was wrong in principle, even he continued to treat it as if it were true, rather like we still speak about the sun rising. If you understand inductive logic as a fallacy, rather than a weaker branch of logic, and reject it entirely, its absence seems elegant, and the inductive sections of philosophy lectures are humorous, not because the professors are stupid, but precisely because they are so smart. Talbot invariably has to equivocate whenever analyzing inductive arguments, and her distaste for them is clear to the audience, but I think not really to herself. This quote is the highlight of that cognitive dissonance. She has just suddenly abandoned an example as bad, before completely expounding it, and proceeds in these sentences to explain that induction is false, even as she seems satisfied that she has justified it, and moves on to the next topic.


Roy Pinney, Reading Braille, ca 1936 (1911 - 2010) +

(Reblogged from mythologyofblue)

Kate’s dashboard coincidence provides a great opportunity to say a few words about optimism. In the first place, we use the word in two very different ways: (1) hoping blindly that things will turn out well, and (2) believing that problems are soluble. The first idea is silly and it is what makes this joke funny (there are two serious answers to his question, by the way: nice things might happen by accident, or because there is a person who wants something nice to happen and knows how to make it happen); the second sense is not silly at all, but is rather a logical consequence of physics.

At the most fundamental level, there are only two types of things, those that are possible and those that are impossible. It is the role of physical laws to differentiate them, to explain why certain things are impossible: if something is impossible, that is because there is a law of physics which makes it impossible. Everything else is possible. There is no third possibility; there is nothing which is possible but which can’t be done: if there were something not prevented by the laws the of physics, but nevertheless impossible for some other reason, then that reason would itself be a law of physics. All things which are possible but which we don’t know how to do yet can be accomplished by creating the appropriate knowledge; so also discovering why something previously thought to be possible is actually impossible constitutes the discovery of a new law of physics.

Here we can begin to glimpse two deep and surprising things: (1) the central role of people in the physical world (the final two sentences of that quote might seem banal at first glance, but actually constitute a remarkable argument), and (2) that something like optimism (in the second sense) can be deduced from scientific principles.

(Reblogged from kateoplis)



materials: perfume, ink, feltpen, on paper. 2010

(Reblogged from catherinewillis)
We judge of a man’s wisdom by his hope, knowing that the perception of the inexhaustibleness of nature is an immortal youth.


Corpus des inscriptions de Delphes [CID]1.3

τὸν <ϝ>οῖνον τὸ<ν> με̄̀ φάρεν ἐς τοῦ δρ-
όμου. αἰ δέ κα φάρε̄ι, ℎιλαξάστο̄
τὸν θεὸν ℎο̑ι κα κεραίε̄ται καὶ
μεταθυσάτο̄ κἀποτεισάτο̄ πέν-
τε δραχμάς, τούτου δὲ το̑ι κατα-
γορε̄́σαντι τὸ ℎε̄́μισσον.

Lex sacra inscribed on a stone block in the outside wall of the stadion at Delphi:  “Do not bring wine out from the stadion.  If anyone does bring it out, let that person propitiate and appease the god for whom it was mixed.  Let that person also pay five drachmas of which half goes to his accuser.”

Note in the Phokian dialect the preposition ἐξ simplifies to ἐς before a consonant.  Readers familiar with Attic-Ionic εἰς/ἐς might make the mistake that the injunction was against people who take wine into the stadion.

(Reblogged from hurkilaspesnes)

Early spring fashions.

Most information, if it were instantiated in some physical object, would not have the property that when it acts on something it is conserved. So, for example, a book with a misprint, in the following edition of the book, the misprint is corrected; if the book is a good book, then the version without misprints is capable of surviving. So, it’s rather like genes: regions of DNA which are junk DNA, which are not used for anything, are just information, and the rest are genes. Similarly, most information does not consist of knowledge, because it doesn’t satisfy the fundamental property of a constructor, that it can produce something and then be able to reproduce it again, without limit.
David Deutsch on distinguishing information and knowledge.


Great new mirror at 29th and 5th but everyone in this city is too busy and jaded to notice.

(Reblogged from sexpigeon)



(Reblogged from mumblelard)
It is indeed very strange, but I think inescapable, that human beings—or rather people, creative entities—have a special place in nature, because the overwhelming majority of processes that are possible are possible only when people are involved. This is a break with the Galilean tradition, which said that there’s nothing important about people; but in fact the thing that is important about people is the very thing that back 400 years ago was important to deny about people: that is, people are not supernatural, they’re part of the physical world, and they’re the most important part of the physical world. I’ve focused in my talk about what people can do (that is, almost everything requires people to do), but there’s also the converse question, what can the world make people do, that is, how would you predict the behavior of human beings? Well, if you think about scientists performing experiments and celebrating when they succeed and make a discovery and so on, you couldn’t predict the set of all such things unless you knew all the laws of physics. So human beings, uniquely, are entities which you can’t predict the behavior of without knowing everything about the universe.
David Deutsch