Archive for June, 2008

I Google, therefore I Don’t Think

Monday, June 30th, 2008

My friend Gerry Pareja sent this article by John Naughton from The Observer, responding (I think very well) to Nicholas Carr’s ‘Is Google Making Us Stupid?‘ in The Atlantic, but I can’t say that its arrival is what distracted me from my previous line of thought. In fact I was just tired, but feeling my need for sleep as a sign of lack of commitment-to-task prompted me to start also on my own intended response to Carr – and others who decry the influence of the web and other technology on our mental capacities. (more…)

Hedonic Man

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Hedonic Man is the title of a review by Alan Wolfe of two books on the “new economics”. Like Wolfe (and probably countless others) I am sure that the science of economics is sorely lacking, but also like him I am more than skeptical of the ideas of these revolutionaries (which I must admit I have not read directly but have come across in various contexts). However my objections are often different than Wolfe’s and in fact I think his review misses the point in a number of key respects.

To start with the second of the authors being reviewed, it was a discussion elsewhere (in Scientific American if I recall correctly) of some of the experiments described by Dan Ariely which irritated me so much that I have been meaning for some time to look it up again and write a response. Wolfe’s review now gives me that opportunity.

But in the unlikely event that I actually have a reader for any of this, I am afraid you will have to wait until tomorrow (since my attention span has just expired).

Gates on Watson on Race

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

The Science of Racism is an odd title for an article in which Henry Louis Gates identifies James Watson’s view as something he calls “racialist” and distinct from “racist”. (more…)

Dyson on Global Warming

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

The Question of Global Warming – The New York Review of Books

CO2 Reduction Scenarios (UK example)

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Heavyweight physics prof weighs into climate/energy scrap [printer-friendly] | The Register

Update on Canadian Copyright Law – Proposed Changes

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Michael Geist – Taking Stock of My Fair Copyright for Canada Principles

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

I was led to this Sunday Times profile of Taleb via Arts&Letters Daily.

Taleb’s view that market collapses are more sudden and extreme (though less frequent) than rises seems believable to me but is presumably easily checked from the record, (and could presumably be built into the modelling of risk if true).

On a completely different tack I was taken with his statement that “Scientists don’t know what they are talking about when they talk about religion. Religion has nothing to do with belief, and I don’t believe it has any negative impact on people’s lives outside of intolerance.” Leaving aside the rather large scope of “intolerance” as a source of negative impact, I tend to agree that for most people the adoption of even a creed-based religion has little to do with actual belief and that this is why arguments about the validity of religion often fall flat without appearing to be processed.

Standards of Accuracy?

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Toronto Star reporter Lesley Ciarula Taylor took issue with the idea of a language test for immigrants, citing a silly question about whether standard-of-living should be said to increase or to rise, but blogger Brett disputes the source of the question. Arnold Zwicky clearly doesn’t understand how to evaluate sources. The question was reported in print in a newspaper with professional writers and editors, so it must be real. That the denial comes in a mere “blog” makes it inherently less credible. If Zwicky had taken the trouble to read the real book ‘Cult of the Amateur’ written by Andrew Keen he would have understood this and could have joined happily in the chorus of dismay about the silly test question.