Monday, August 12, 2019

The photos of the future will not be recorded, they’ll be computed

--- Ramesh Raskar, MIT Media Lab quoted in New Scientist article "AI-powered smartphone cameras are changing the way we see reality" 16 March 2019

In context

The goal of digital photography was once to approximate what our eyes see. “All digital cameras, including ones on smartphones, have always had some sort of processing to modify contrast and colour balance,” says Neel Joshi, who works on computer vision at Microsoft Research.
Computational photography goes beyond this, automatically making skin smoother, colours richer and pictures less grainy. It can even turn night into day. These photos may look better, but they raise concerns about authenticity and trust in an era of fakeable information. “The photos of the future will not be recorded, they’ll be computed,” says Ramesh Raskar at the MIT Media Lab. 



Saturday, July 20, 2019

the fluid zone between the world in itself and our image of it is what painting explores, that is its core activity

--- Karl Ove Knausgaard, So Much Longing in So Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch (2019), p. 221

Context

And yet it would be a big misunderstanding to think that whatever has no form, no shape and no weight — in other words, our thoughts, feelings, notions, ideas, memories, mental images — always dissolves in the presence of the reality of the now. One could also argue the opposite, that reality is something we have learned how to see, that it appears in and affirms an image we have beforehand. Of course, it isn't that simple either, but the fluid zone between the world in itself and our image of it is what painting explores, that is its core activity. That we still remember Munch, and that his art is still alive in our culture, is because he went further in exploring that territory than most of his contemporaries.
But in what way is his art still alive? The actual pictures exist in actual places — most of them in museums — in the same way that the motifs they depict exist in concrete places. But it isn't in the realm of the concrete that they live on, it is in our notional world, in the minds of each and every one of us.

in this mass of nature, there is a set of things that carry in their front, though not in capital letters, yet in stenography and short characters, something of divinity

--- Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, see Religio Medici, Hydriotaphia, and the Letter to a Friend, Gutenberg Etext #586

Context, On Philosophy

"Beware of philosophy," is a precept not to be received in too large a sense: for, in this mass of nature, there is a set of things that carry in their front, though not in capital letters, yet in stenography and short characters, something of divinity; which, to wiser reasons, serve as luminaries in the abyss of knowledge, and, to judicious beliefs, as scales and roundles to mount the pinnacles and highest pieces of divinity. The severe schools shall never laugh me out of the philosophy of Hermes, that this visible world is but a picture of the invisible, wherein, as in a portrait, things are not truly, but in equivocal shapes, and as they counterfeit some real substance in that invisible fabrick.

We are only that amphibious piece, between a corporeal and a spiritual essence

--- Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, see Religio Medici, Hydriotaphia, and the Letter to a Friend, Gutenberg Etext #586

Context, On Humankind:

"These are certainly the magisterial and masterpieces of the Creator; the flower, or, as we may say, the best part of nothing; actually existing, what we are but in hopes, and probability. We are only that amphibious piece, between a corporeal and a spiritual essence; that middle form, that links those two together, and makes good the method of God and nature, that jumps not from extremes, but unites the incompatible distances by some middle and participating natures."


Now for my life, it is a miracle of thirty years, which to relate, were not a history, but a piece of poetry, and would sound to common ears like a fable. For the world, I count it not an inn, but an hospital; and a place not to live, but to die in.

--- Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, see Religio Medici, Hydriotaphia, and the Letter to a Friend, Gutenberg Etext #586

Context


"Now for my life, it is a miracle of thirty years, which to relate, were not a history, but a piece of poetry, and would sound to common ears like a fable. For the world, I count it not an inn, but an hospital; and a place not to live, but to die in. The world that I regard is myself; it is the microcosm of my own frame that I cast mine eye on: for the other, I use it but like my globe, and turn it round sometimes for my recreation. Men that look upon my outside, perusing only my condition and fortunes, do err in my altitude; for I am above Atlas's shoulders. The earth is a point not only in respect of the heavens above us, but of the heavenly and celestial part within us. That mass of flesh that circumscribes me limits not my mind. That surface that tells the heavens it hath an end cannot persuade me I have any. I take my circle to be above three hundred and sixty. Though the number of the ark do measure my body, it comprehendeth not my mind. Whilst I study to find how I am a microcosm, or little world, I find myself something more than the great. There is surely a piece of divinity in us; some- thing that was before the elements, and owes no homage unto the sun. Nature tells me, I am the image of God, as well as Scripture. He that understands not thus much hath not his introduction or first lesson, and is yet to begin the alphabet of man."
 

Monday, July 01, 2019

every historian is the obedient servant of his or her own point of view

--- Paul Cartledge, quoting "a famous Dutch historian," speaking on a BBC4 episode of In Our Time on The Mytilenaean Debate, 20 Jun 2019, starting timecode 26:40

In context:
A famous Dutch historian once said that the historian -- every  historian -- is the obedient servant of his or her own point of view. So it is the historian who selects what episodes, what  events -- it's the historian who chooses what to sources he  or she will accept and it's the historian who, as Thucydides says in his very first sentence, writes the war.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Re-watching familiar videos can be a kind of secular prayer

--- Laurence Scott, in his wonderful  article "In Search of Lost Time on YouTube: How the platform takes us to places where we ache to go again," The New Atlantis, Number 59, Summer 2019

In context

The digital, unbloody ease with which YouTube revives the past, so much more nimbly than its DVD and VCR predecessors, invites us to become re-watchers of the same content. Indeed, quick repetition is a main feature of our new digital aesthetics. Whereas we use GIFs — those twitchy, looping clips — as public illustrations of our feelings or responses to events, an oft-repeated YouTube video is the GIF’s private counterpart. Re-watching familiar videos can be a kind of secular prayer. There is comfort in the repetition, and the videos to which we give this repeated attention can feel deeply personal. We wouldn’t necessarily want others to know that we return to them in this way. Aren’t we wasting the time of our own lives? It’s easy to attach embarrassment or shame to the act of re-watching.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

We don't want to be watched but we want to be visible

--- Patricia Lockwood, LRB podcast "The State of ... The Internet" at 20:50

In context:

And the stubbornness of the human mind, I think, because again, with all this surveillance, like, yeah we do want to be visible -- right? -- but we're being watched. We don't want to be watched but we want to be visible.

A few more

John Lanchester talking about mixed feelings about technology, around 32:39

 There's a funny thing, this shiny device has liberated us, but [...] it's trapped us too.

John Lanchester talking about early use of modems by tabloid journalists, starting at 35:58

I remember that seeming like a kind of ... magic trick, but at the same time it was in that really intermediate stage, that wonderful -- I can't remember who said it, something about technologies -- "Technology's stuff that doesn't work yet." ... Because once things really work, we stop experiencing them as technology; glasses are the thing I'm obsessive about: technology but we don't think of them as technology because they just work. But technology being in that kind of liminal state between working and not working ...



Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world

--- Albert Einstein, in an interview that was published in “The Saturday Evening Post” in 1929, according to Quote Investigator. In context

“I believe in intuitions and inspirations. I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am. When two expeditions of scientists, financed by the Royal Academy, went forth to test my theory of relativity, I was convinced that their conclusions would tally with my hypothesis. I was not surprised when the eclipse of May 29, 1919, confirmed my intuitions. I would have been surprised if I had been wrong.”

“Then you trust more to your imagination than to your knowledge?”

“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Friday, June 14, 2019

Rule 34: If something exists, there is porn of it

According to Know Your Meme:

Rule 34 is an Internet adage in the "Rules of the Internet" list of protocols and conventions which asserts that "if something exists, there is porn of it." The humorous concept is commonly illustrated through fanarts and fanfictions in which fictional TV and cartoon characters engage in sexual behavior, in similar vein to the Ruined Childhood meme.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

... build something that you haven’t done before, you don’t know how to do it, and it’s kind of amateur way of doing things ...

--- Karl Ove Knausgård, in an interview with Kurt Anderson, Studio 360 interview, May 2, 2019

The blog post paraphrases the verbatim (see my transcription of the audio below) as follows

If you want to get rid of all the automatic ways in, then you have to do something from scratch so to speak and build something that you haven't done before . . . It's like you do it for the first time. And I think that's that's the best place to be in writing…. And I think Munch somehow searched for those places in his painting throughout his life.

Quote in context (my transcription)

[12:55] Kurt Anderson: And, and, you don’t just mean the overused formula that everybody would regard as, that’s been used forever, that’s a cliché; you mean, any technique or any trope or any idea that an artist just comfortably returns to in his or her own work, right? It’s all of one’s personal habits, as well, and tics.

[13:16] Karl Ove Knausgård: Yes, exactly, and its about safety, it’s easy if you find a way to do it, find a way to paint or find a way to write, and it’s works to be successful, or at least it works, it’s very tempting to just continue because [sigh] the risk of failure is enormous in doing these things, you know. So, for instance, a man like David Bowie, he should be admired so much for the courage he had to completely go somewhere else you know, every second year, since 70s and 80s. Because the risk and what’s at stake is a comfort and you know your skill, you can do it, and it’s easy, you can do it one more time, but if you do it, then you know what it is, and there’s no curiosity anymore, and you won’t find anything else, anything new.

[14:08] Kurt Anderson. Right. I’m fascinated by the common struggles and common challenges and problems of artists in different disciplines. You say, for instance, that a serious painter, quote, starts a work because he knows what he wants to do but not how to do it. And that seems at least as true of writing as painting.

[14:35] Karl Ove Knausgård: Yeah. If you want to get rid of the novel before the novel, if you want to get rid of all the automatic ways in, then you have to do something from scratch so to speak, and build something that you haven’t done before, you don’t know how to do it, and it’s kind of amateur way of doing things, you know, there’s no professionalism in it, it’s as if you do it for the first time. And I think that’s the best place to be in writing, and you can feel it in the novel. It’s not like a professional, you know, smooth, … it’s much more awkward, and I think Munch somehow searched for those places in his paining throughout his life, actually.

Friday, May 31, 2019

In astronomy, one is an outlier, two is a population


--- Emily Petroff at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, quoted in "Radio wave bursts from space keep hitting Earth and we don't know why," New Scientist, 9 January 2019

In context:

Knowing there is more than one repeating FRB means we are likely to find further ones. “In astronomy, one is an outlier, two is a population,” says Petroff. Hunting down that population requires looking at a large portion of the sky for a long time.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Technology is also the central character and actor in our social drama, an end as well as a means. In fact, technology plays the role of "the trickster" in American culture

--- James W. Carey, in "Communication, Culture, and Technology: An Internet Interview with James W. Carey," in Journal of Communication Inquiry 22:2 (April 1998): 117-130; https://doi.org/10.1177/0196859998022002001.

In context
Langdon Winner called this belief "autonomous technology," the faith that technology is and must be highly differentiated, identifiably disengaged, and objectified. While common to all industrial societies, autonomous technology occupies a peculiar place in the life of North Americans. Technology, for us, is more than an assortment of artifacts or practices, a means to accomplish desired ends. Technology is also the central character and actor in our social drama, an end as well as a means. In fact, technology plays the role of "the trickster" in American culture: At each turn of the historical cycle it appears center stage, in a different guise, promising something totally new.
More excerpts
Our national storytelling is, to an unusual extent, embedded in the history of technology; it is the story, to use Leo Marx's useful phrase, of the "machine in the Garden."

… once constituted, technology, like any God, must be propitiated.

The rituals of theory are themselves ways of propitiating technology. If human imagination operates mainly by a process of analogy-a "seeing-as" comprehension of the less intelligible by the more (the universe is a hogan, the world a wedding)-the main analogy of modem thought is technology.

The consequences of technology are always profoundly contradictory; contradiction is of the essence of technology, not just some accidental byproduct of the historical process.

The more appliances that our lives require-appliances rather than our own biological capacity-the more influence their producers have over the texture of our lives.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

By consuming what the algorithm says I want, I trust the algorithm to make me ever more who it thinks I already am

--- Jon Askonas, in "How Tech Utopia Fostered Tyranny," The New Atlantis, Winter 2019

Quote in context

We can see the shift from “access to tools” to algorithmic utopianism in the unheralded, inexorable replacement of the “page” by the “feed.” . . . The feed was the solution to the tedium of surfing the web, of always having to decide for yourself what to do next. Information would now come to you. Gradually, the number of sites involved in one’s life online dwindled, and the “platform” emerged, characterized by an infinite display of relevant information — the feed. . . . But the opacity of these models, indeed the very personalization of them, means that a strong element of faith is required. By consuming what the algorithm says I want, I trust the algorithm to make me ever more who it thinks I already am.
Some more quotes:

"Authoritarians’ love for digital technology is no fluke — it’s a product of Silicon Valley’s “smart” paternalism"

"Tools based on the premise that access to information will only enlighten us and social connectivity will only make us more humane have instead fanned conspiracy theories, information bubbles, and social fracture. A tech movement spurred by visions of libertarian empowerment and progressive uplift has instead fanned a global resurgence of populism and authoritarianism."

"But what we are searching for — what we desire — is often shaped by what we are exposed to and what we believe others desire. And so predicting what is useful, however value-neutral this may sound, can shade into deciding what is useful, both to individual users and to groups, and thereby shaping what kinds of people we become, for both better and worse."

"As long as our desires are unsettled and malleable — as long as we are human — the engineering choices of Google and the rest must be as much acts of persuasion as of prediction."

"Each company was founded on a variation of the premise that providing more people with more information and better tools, and helping them connect with each other, would help them lead better, freer, richer lives."

"Moreover, because algorithms are subject to strategic manipulation and because they are attempting to provide results unique to you, the choices shaping these powerful defaults are necessarily hidden away by platforms demanding you simply trust them"

"What’s shocking isn’t that technological development is a two-edged sword. It’s that the power of these technologies is paired with a stunning apathy among their creators about who might use them and how. Google employees have recently declared that helping the Pentagon with a military AI program is a bridge too far, convincing the company to cancel a $10 billion contract. But at the same time, Google, Apple, and Microsoft, committed to the ideals of open-source software and collaboration toward technological progress, have published machine-learning tools for anyone to use, including agents provocateur and revenge pornographers."

"They and their successors, based on optimistic assumptions about human nature, built machines to maximize those naturally good human desires. But, to use a line from Bruno Latour, “technology is society made durable.” That is, to extend Latour’s point, technology stabilizes in concrete form what societies already find desirable."

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The first scent you pour in a jar stays there / For years

--- Horace, Epistles I, 2 (to Lollius), transl. by Burton Raffel, in The essential Horace: Odes, epodes, satires, and epistles (1983), p. 200

The closing stanza
    A good groom trains a colt, teaches it obedience,
Before its neck grows too strong; a hunting hound
Works in the woods from the day it finds a deerskin
In the yard, and barks at it. You’re still a boy: drink
My words with a boy’s pure heart, trust in men who know.
The first scent you pour in a jar stays there
For years
. God as fast as you like, go as slow:
My pace is my own, now, indifferent to the world around me.

(I don't see why Lollius should take Horace's advice, since I'm not sure Horace is indeed one of the "men who know"; his "My pace is my own, now, indifferent to the world around me" sounds smug to me.) Still, the "first scent" image is lovely. It reminds me of a saying of the Buddha that I vaguely remember (and now can't track down; perhaps in the Dhammapada?) to the effect that grass wrapping something smelly (fish?) takes on its aroma; it's a metaphor for bad friends.

avoid the atmosphere of easy acrimony which sometimes haunts footnotes

--- Henry Steel Commager, The Odes of Horace: A Critical Study, quoted by Burton Raffel in his Translator's Introduction to The essential Horace: Odes, epodes, satires, and epistles (1983), p. xvii

Commager as quoted by Raffel:
I have made an effort to avoid the atmosphere of easy acrimony which sometimes haunts footnotes. Since we have inevitably to stand upon the shoulder of previous scholars, it ill becomes us to step on their toes getting there.

Monday, April 08, 2019

researchers’ careers depend more on publishing results with ‘impact’ than on publishing results that are correct

--- Arturo Casadevall in Nature, "Duke University’s huge misconduct fine is a reminder to reward rigour", 2 Apr 2019

Quote in context
The Duke experience is unlikely to be replicated exactly elsewhere. Channelling Leo Tolstoy, every instance of research misconduct is unhappy in its own way. Still, one thing is common: researchers’ careers depend more on publishing results with ‘impact’ than on publishing results that are correct. Pursuit of academic success generally means targeting particular journals, citations accrued and, occasionally, media attention.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Better to be enveloped in a matter that darkly feeds itself with hidden fires

--- Lewis Hyde, in Trickster makes this world (1998), Interlude, p. 90

In context
In the coal fields of West Virginia there are abandoned mines—their entrances long closed, the nearby towns long impoverished—that have caught on fire. These fires are impossible to put out; slowly they burn through the seams of coal, thirty or forty years. How wonderful if the writer of a book should happen on a topic with such longevity! At times he'll wish he'd picked some simpler theme, something he could strip-mine in a season, or something that would flash up and die down in a matter of months so that he could publish and get on. Get on with what, though? Better to be enveloped in a matter that darkly feeds itself with hidden fires; better not to know fully where the veins of fascination lead, but to trust that they will slowly give up their heat in recompense for attention paid.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

J'ai toujours préféré la folie des passions à la sagesse de l'indifférence

--- Anatole France, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard (1881). Via Dale Hatfield, March 2019. Often translated something like, "I prefer the errors of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom"

From Wikiquote:

J'ai toujours préféré la folie des passions à la sagesse de l'indifférence.
I prefer the folly of enthusiasm to the wisdom of indifference.
Variant: I prefer the errors of enthusiasm to the wisdom of indifference.    
Le Crime de Sylvestre Bonnard, Pt. II, ch. 4, as translated by Lafcadio Hearn (1890) - full text of translation at Project Gutenberg 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A metaphor is not an ornament. It is an organ of perception

--- Neil Postman, from The End of Education (1995), quoted on Rattle's page for the Neil Postman Award for Metaphor

Various web sites list this quote, but without a pin cite; the Amazon Look inside seems to confirm it, but I couldn't view the page (p. 171 given). QuoteFancy.com gives a slightly longer quote: “A metaphor is not an ornament. It is an organ of perception. Through metaphors, we see the world as one thing or another.”

ThoughCo.com offers a few sources for this quote, but neither are from Postman:

Gerard Genette on the Recovery of the Vision
Thus metaphor is not an ornament, but the necessary instrument for a recovery, through style, of the vision of essences, because it is the stylistic equivalent of the psychological experience of involuntary memory, which alone, by bringing together two sensations separated in time, is able to release their common essence through the miracle of an analogy — though metaphor has an added advantage over reminiscence, in that the latter is a fleeting contemplation of eternity, while the former enjoys the permanence of the work of art.
(Gerard Genette, Figures of Literary Discourse, Columbia University Press, 1981)

I.A. Richards on the Omnipresent Principle of Language
Throughout the history of Rhetoric, metaphor has been treated as a sort of happy extra trick with words, an opportunity to exploit the accidents of their versatility, something in place occasionally but requiring unusual skill and caution. In brief, a grace or ornament or added power of language, not its constitutive form. . . .
That metaphor is the omnipresent principle of language can be shown by mere observation. We cannot get through three sentences of ordinary fluid discourse without it.
(I.A. Richards, The Philosophy of Language, 1936)

From the Rattle page:

"Much like George Lakoff and Ludwig Wittgenstein, Postman maintained that words (and words, in truth, are metaphors) are as much the driver of reality as they are the vehicle. . . . For Postman, the study of metaphor was unending and metaphors were as crucial as they were omnipresent; they served to give form to and dictate experience. Is America the great melting pot, or is it an experiment in unity through diversity? What metaphors are embedded in television commercials . . . Put simply, Postman (like his teacher and hero, Marshall McLuhan), maintained that the medium through which information is conveyed directly colors meaning and our sense of the world . . . We are, essentially, what we see, hear, and read. Postman might go so far as to opine that we are the metaphors we use."

This makes me wonder about metaphor shading into myth...

writing was invented by introverts who didn’t want extroverts having all the story-telling fun

--- Poet James Valvis, in the biographical statement below his poem The Distracted (2019 winner of the Neil Postman Award for Metaphor) in Rattle  #61, Fall 2018.

Quote in context - the biographical statement:

James Valvis: “I don’t know why I write. Or why I ever started. It feels a bit like asking a penguin why he eats fish. It’s just what penguins do. Still, I’m an unlikely writer, to say the least, a ghetto kid who preferred baseball to Baudelaire, chess to Chesterton, Whitman’s chocolates to Whitman’s poems. I think I simply had too many stories inside not to let some out—and not enough friends to tell them to. I have this theory writing was invented by introverts who didn’t want extroverts having all the story-telling fun.” (web)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

it is not the car that you drive or the clothes that you wear that is important, but whom you dine with

--- Mamdouh Bisharat, quoted in the CS Monitor profile, "Patron of the past: The Jordanian duke who's preserving the soul of the Levant", November 5, 2018.

Quote in context

The late King Hussein, enamored with Bisharat’s love of country, decided to make his nickname official, issuing a royal decree in 1974 recognizing him as “Duke of Mukhaibeh.”

Dukedom has not given Bisharat airs.

While Amman’s rich and powerful clog Amman’s narrow streets with Rolls-Royces and Lamborghinis, the duke drives a silver Chevy pickup packed with tomatoes. His blazers and suits are frayed, dating to the 1960s.

“What I learned in England is that it is not the car that you drive or the clothes that you wear that is important,” Bisharat says, preparing for his next supper party, “but whom you dine with.”

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

To me, a formula is a baked idea. Words are ideas in the oven.

--- Judea Pearl, in his 2018 book with Dana Mackenzie,The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect, p. 335


Quote in context:

Many people find formulas daunting, seeing them as a way of concealing rather than revealing information. But to a mathematician, or to person who is adequately trained in the mathematical way of thinking, exactly the reverse is true. A formula reveals everything: it leaves nothing to doubt or ambiguity. When reading a scientific article, I often catch myself jumping from formula to formula, skipping the words altogether. To me, a formula is a baked idea. Words are ideas in the oven.

One is tempted to say, "Great minds think alike," but perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that great problems attract great minds.

--- Judea Pearl, in his 2018 book with Dana Mackenzie,The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect, p. 313


Quote in context:

Unlike Kruskal, we can draw a diagram and see exactly what the problem is. Figure 9.5 shows the causal diagram representing Kruskal's counterexample. Does it look slightly familiar? It should! It is exactly the same diagram that Barbara Burks drew in 1926, but with different variables. One is tempted to say, "Great minds think alike," but perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that great problems attract great minds.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Zeus does not arrive at decisions which he then enacts in the mortal world; rather, human events are themselves an enactment of divine will

--- Harold Bloom. Quote taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus, which seems to be citing Bloom's Major Dramatists: Aeschylus (2002), p. 14-15. (I wasn't able to verify the reference.)

Quote in context (taken from the Wikipedia article):


Much critical attention has been paid to the question of theodicy in Aeschylus. For generations, scholars warred incessantly over 'the justice of Zeus,' unintentionally blurring it with a monotheism imported from Judeo-Christian thought. The playwright undoubtedly had religious concerns; for instance, Jacqueline de Romilly suggests that his treatment of time flows directly out of his belief in divine justice. But it would be an error to think of Aeschylus as sermonizing. His Zeus does not arrive at decisions which he then enacts in the mortal world; rather, human events are themselves an enactment of divine will.


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

He had done as his dreams had told him, but dreams know more than they reveal

--- Neil Gaiman, in the Chapter "The Children of Loki" of his Norse Mythology (2017), p. 96.

In context:

Odin took the serpent to the shore of the sea that lies beyond all lands, the sea that circles Midgard, and there on the shore he freed Jormungundr, and watched it slither and slip beneath the waves and swim away in loops and curls.
Odin watched it with his one eye until it was lost on the horizon, and he wondered if he had done right thing. He did not know. He had done as his dreams had told him, but dreams know more than they reveal, even to the wisest of the gods.



Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing

--- Wernher von Braun, POLITICO Space's Quote for the Day, 12/12/2018 (also sometimes given as "Basic research is...")

Saturday, December 01, 2018

the ever-widening gap between what we understand and what we think we should understand

--- Richard Saul Wurman, in Information Anxiety, via Kenneth Gergen's The Saturated Self

Quote

[Information anxiety is] produced by the ever-widening gap between what we understand and what we think we should understand. It is the black hole between data and knowledge, and what happens when information doesn't tell us what we want or need to know.

You must not avert your eyes ... this is what a collective anonymous body of marjority wants to see

--- Werner Herzog, from an interview at Intelligence Squared in 2009 (YouTube)

The poet or the filmmaker or the musician must not avert his eyes. We should not be sitting in the library and study it as academic subject... Paul I think you've started watching Wrestlemania... because you must not avert your eyes. This what is coming at us. This is what a collective, anonymous body of majority wants to see on television.

I found it thanks to Nerdwriter1, who used it to open his YouTube essay, Why Are There So Few Smartphones In Popular Movies?, which was inspired by John Hunter's TEDx Talk, The Hollywood Guide to the Future-Past.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream

--- Joseph Campbell, from The Hero With a Thousand Faces (from The Monomyth, ch. 1, “Myth and Dream”)

Extended quote:

Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream; both myth and dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamic of the psyche. But in the dream the forms are quirked by the peculiar troubles of the dreamer, whereas in myth the problems and solutions shown are directly valid for all mankind.

I found this via Steven Aizenstat, who said in Dream Tending: "A myth is a story that expresses something meaningful about a culture, from origins to values to sanctioned social interactions.   Every night the dreaming psyche is generating something of our own personal mythology, informing us about our origins, values, and so on."

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The fastest progress is achieved by those who are content with the stage they are on now. It is the deepening of that contentment that ripens into the next stage.

--- Ajahn Brahmavamso, quoted by Christopher K. Germer in The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion (2009)

This comment occurs in The Five Hindrances (Nivarana) by Ajahn Brahmavamso, said to have been published in the newsletter of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia, April 1999. Excerpt:
4. Restlessness refers to a mind which is like a monkey, always swinging on to the next branch, never able to stay long with anything. It is caused by the fault-finding state of mind which cannot be satisfied with things as they are, and so has to move on to the promise of something better, forever just beyond.

The Lord Buddha compared restlessness to being a slave, continually having to jump to the orders of a tyrannical boss who always demands perfection and so never lets one stop.

Restlessness is overcome by developing contentment, which is the opposite of fault-finding. One learns the simple joy of being satisfied with little, rather than always wanting more. One is grateful for this moment, rather than picking out its deficiencies. For instance, in meditation restlessness is often the impatience to move quickly on to the next stage. The fastest progress, though is achieved by those who are content with the stage they are on now. It is the deepening of that contentment that ripens into the next stage. So be careful of 'wanting to get on with it' and instead learn how to rest in appreciative contentment. That way, the 'doing' disappears and the meditation blossoms.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

by 2040 or so ... 30 percent [of Americans] will choose 70 senators

--- Norm Ornstein, in a tweet on July 10, 2018

Tweet text:

I want to repeat a statistic I use in every talk: by 2040 or so, 70 percent of Americans will live in 15 states. Meaning 30 percent will choose 70 senators. And the 30% will be older, whiter, more rural, more male than the 70 percent. Unsettling to say the least
According to Jason Devaney in Newsmax quoting the Washington Post, the claim is supported by a 2016 population study by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service of the University of Virginia.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell

--- CG Jung, from Ch. 5, Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self (1951) (per u/moscheles in a reddit thread)

Monday, October 15, 2018

Complexity is not a condition to be tamed, but a lesson to be learned.

--- Artist James Bridle, quoted in NewScientist issue 3189, August 2018, in a review by Pat Kane of his book New Dark Age.

In context:

Bridle expresses moral distaste at the excesses and cruelties of digital culture, with its devastating access to our rawest selves, and its historical links to war and imperialism.

But he also possesses a near-Buddhist acceptance of how inescapably we are caught up in it. Perhaps this is why he writes so approvingly of initiatives like “centaur” chess, in which humans team up with AIs so that together they can beat the most advanced programmes.

The “darkness” in Bridle’s title is generated by the unthinkable density of our information worlds, and the growing inscrutability of the machine intelligences that tend them. We can’t afford to be overwhelmed by all this, he says. Global warming’s knowledge explosion, for example, compels all good citizens to be amateur statisticians. But we should understand the scale and intractability of the problem: “Complexity is not a condition to be tamed,” Bridle cautions, “but a lesson to be learned.”

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Recognize what is before your eyes, and what is hidden will be revealed to you.

--- The Gospel of Thomas, verse 5, as given by Thomas Moore's Care of the Soul, as the Epigraph to begin Section III. Spiritual Practice and Psychological Depth.

This appears to be Moore's translation. A variety of translations is given in the The Gospel of Thomas Collection:

Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer: Jesus said, "Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. [And there is nothing buried that will not be raised.]"

Thomas O. Lambdin: Jesus said, "Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you. For there is nothing hidden which will not become manifest."

Marvin Meyer: Yeshua said, / Know what is in front of your face / and what is hidden from you will be disclosed. / There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.

Stevan Davies: Jesus said, "Recognize what is right in front of you, and that which is hidden from you will be revealed to you. Nothing hidden will fail to be displayed. [And there is nothing that is buried that will not be raised.]


Stephen J. Patterson and James M. Robinson: Jesus says: / (1) "Come to know what is in front of you, and that which is hidden from you will become clear to you. / (2) For there is nothing hidden that will not become manifest."

Monday, October 08, 2018

what was true ... was not original, and most of what was original was known not to be true

--- Max Perutz on Erwin Schrodinger's What's Life, via Phil Ball in the Nature podcast of 5 Sep 2018, interview about his article in Nature Books and Arts, Schrödinger’s cat among biology’s pigeons: 75 years of What Is Life?

Ball's article cites a 1987 paper by Perutz, Physics and the riddle of life, where he grumbled that "what was true in his book was not original, and most of what was original was known not to be true even when the book was written”.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain

--- Mr Weasley, quoted by Oliver Bullough, author of the new book Moneyland: Why Thieves and Crooks Now Rule the World, on the Talking Politics podcast of 26 September 2018, at timecode 42:00

From the podcast transcript:

To my mind the threat is that this dark money, the 10 percent of the global economy which is out there somewhere, is a bit like a sort of malevolent Poltergeist. We can’t see it and we can’t touch it but it can see us and it can touch us. There’s this great line in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which I’m sure you’ve all read intensely, when Mr. Weasley scolds his daughter Ginny at the end because she’s been possessed by a diary which was sort of inhabited by the spirit of Lord Voldemort. And he says ‘How many times do I have to tell you. Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.’ And that’s the thing about dark money, offshore money, is it’s acting, it’s influencing our politics. It’s buying assets. It’s buying houses. It’s paying for the media. It’s paying for, you know, political campaigns, but we can’t see where it keeps its brain.

In the book, Bullough says in his Notes on Sources, p. 289, "The quotation from Arthur Weasley comes from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (London: Bloomsbury, 1998) by J. K. Rowling, and can — in my opinion — be applied to pretty much everything. "


Sunday, September 30, 2018

what forms of psychological manipulation will we consider to be acceptable business models?

--- James Williams, author of Stand out of our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy (CUP 2018), speaking on the Talking Politics podcast 25 April, 2018, at timecode 24:39

The fundamental question for society to answer is, what forms of psychological manipulation will we consider to be acceptable business models.

Friday, September 28, 2018

The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope

--- Samuel Johnson, quoted by Philip Mirowski in the final section, "5. The kicker" of  "On kicking the habit: A response to the JEBO Symposium on “Markets Come to Bits”", Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Vol. 63 (2007) 359–371

Here's more, per https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/samuel_johnson_134958

The mind is never satisfied with the objects immediately before it, but is always breaking away from the present moment, and losing itself in schemes of future felicity... The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.

I have gathered a posie of other men's flowers and nothing but the thread which binds them is my own

--- Michel de Montaigne, frontispiece of The Art of Botanical Illustration (Hardcover, 1989) by Lys de Bray

I haven't been able to find thesource for this translation.

Here is the version from Essays of Michel de Montaigne, Chapter XII, Of Physiognomy, translated by Charles Cotton, edited by William Carew Hazlitt (1877) on http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3600:


Besides, the method of arguing, of which Socrates here makes use, is it not equally admirable both in simplicity and vehemence?  Truly it is much more easy to speak like Aristotle and to live like Caesar than to speak and live as Socrates did; there lies the extreme degree of perfection and difficulty; art cannot reach it.  Now, our faculties are not so trained up; we do not try, we do not know them; we invest ourselves with those of others, and let our own lie idle; as some one may say of me, that I have here only made a nosegay of foreign flowers, having furnished nothing of my own but the thread to tie them.
Certainly I have so far yielded to public opinion, that those borrowed ornaments accompany me; but I do not mean that they shall cover me and hide me; that is quite contrary to my design, who desire to make a show of nothing but what is my own, and what is my own by nature; and had I taken my own advice, I had at all hazards spoken purely alone, I more and more load myself every day, beyond my purpose and first method, upon the account of idleness and the humour of the age.  If it misbecome me, as I believe it does, ‘tis no matter; it may be of use to some others.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation. It's about bringing order to complexity.

--- Jonathan Ive, explaining the design philosophy behind iOS 7 in the product video shown at WWDC 2013 (according to Wikiquote) (h/t Agata Toromanoff for the quote in her article Conscious Environments about Elena Mora, Aesthetica Magazine, June/July 2018)

From Wikiquote:

I think there is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity; in clarity, in efficiency. True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation. It's about bringing order to complexity.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

What you see depends on where you stand

It's a variation, perhaps, of   C.S. Lewis in The Magician's Nephew:
What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.

Cf. "Where you stand depends on where you sit," attributed to Rufus Miles of Princeton University (sometimes call Miles's Law), among others.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

finding the right work is like discovering your own soul in the world

--- Thomas Moore, in Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life (1994)

Quote in context, p. 186:
When it is not possible to feel good about our work, then soulful pride, so necessary for creativity, turns into narcissism. Pride and narcissism are not the same thing; in a sense, they are opposites. Like Narcissus, we need to be objectified in an image, something outside ourselves. The products of our work are like the image in the pond—a means of loving ourselves. But if those products are not lovable, we are forced into a narcissistic where we lose sight of the work itself and focus on our own personal needs. Love of the world and our place in it, attained largely by our work, turns into solipsistic craving for love. Work becomes narcissistic when we cannot love ourselves through objects in the world. This is one of the deeper implications of the Narcissus myth: the flowering of life depends upon finding a reflection of oneself in the world, and work is an important place for that kind of reflection. In the language of Neoplatonism, Narcissus discovers love when he finds that his nature is completed in that part of his soul that is outside himself, in the soul of the world. Read in this way, the story suggests that we will never achieve the flowering of our own natures until we find that piece of ourselves, that lovable twin, which lives in the world and as the world. Therefore, finding the right work is like discovering your own soul in the world.

Let your meditation walk no further than pleasure, and even a little behind

--- Epicurus, quoted by Thomas Moore in Care of the Soul (1992). From Moore, p. 164:
Also curious is that whenever pleasure is tied to soul in the writings of philosophers, it is not separated from restraint. Epicurus, as we have seen, lived a simple life and taught a philosophy of pleasure. Ficino, who in his early years espoused the philosophy of Epicurus explicitly (later he lived it but did not speak about it openly), gave a high place to pleasure, yet he was a vegetarian, ate sparsely, traveled none and treasured friends and books over all other possessions. The motto of his Florentine academy was displayed on a banner that read PLEASURE IN THE PRESENT. In one of his letters he gave this epicurean advice: "Let your meditation walk no further than pleasure, and even a little behind."

Monday, August 27, 2018

our failure is to form habits

--- Walter Pater, The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry, Conclusion (1st ed. 1873)

In context

To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations, seem alike.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

We live by admiration, hope and love

--- William Wordsworth, quoted by Carleton Noyes in the final paragraph of The Gate of Appreciation: Studies in the Relation of Art to Life, 1907 (on gutenberg.org)


From Noyes:
Art is within the range of every man who holds himself open to its appeal. But art is not the final thing. It is a means to an end; its end is personality. There are exalted moments in the experience of us all which we feel to be finer than any art. Then we do not need to turn to painting, music, literature, for our satisfaction. We are living. Art is aid and inspiration, but its fulfillment and end is life.
"We live," says Wordsworth, "by admiration, hope, and love." Admiration is wonder and worship, a sense of the mystery and the beauty of life as we know it now, and thankfulness for it, and joy. Hope is the vision of things to be. And love is the supreme enfolding unity that makes all one. Art is life at its best, but life is the greatest of the arts,--life harmonious, deep in feeling, big in sympathy, the life that is appreciation, responsiveness, and love.

Monday, July 30, 2018

the sadness of growing old is part of becoming an individual

--- Thomas Moore, in Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life, Harper Perennial ppbk 1992, pp. 140-41.

Quote in context:
Aging brings out the flavors of a personality. The individual emerges over time, the way fruit matures and ripens. In the Renaissance view, depression, aging, and individuality all go together: the sadness of growing old is part of becoming an individual. Melancholy thoughts carve out an interior space where wisdom can take up residence.

Monday, July 16, 2018

There are no facts about the future

--- ascribed to risk expert Dr. David T. Hulett on https://www.gristprojectmanagement.us/statistics/there-are-no-facts-about-the-future.html and http://www.johngoodpasture.com/2014/10/there-are-no-facts-about-future.html. I learned it from Ed Thomas, former head of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology. It's cited by various people, see e.g. the search results at DuckDuckGo.

And of course, there's always Yogi Berra: “It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Jim Gray's Properties of a Research Goal

--- from "What Next? A Few Remaining Problems in Information Technology" (pdf), 1998 Turing Lecture
  • Simple to state.
  • Not obvious how to do it.
  • Clear benefit.
  • Progress and solution is testable.
  • Can be broken in to smaller steps
    • - So that you can see intermediate progress.

... a model ... should yield answers we believe to questions that matter

--- Paul Romer, in his 2015 blog post Speeding-up and Missed Opportunities: Evidence reflecting on the 25th anniversary of the publication of his paper "Endogenous Technological Change" (JPE 1990)

The bar I set for a model is that it should yield answers we believe to questions that matter. For a model of growth, the two questions that matter most are ...