Friday, December 26, 2008
"[The artist] must be quite aware of the obvious fact that art never improves, but that the material of art is never quite the same. He must be aware that the mind of Europe - the mind of his own country - a mind which he learns in time to be much more important than his own private mind - is a mind which changes... That this development, refinement perhaps, complication certainly, is not, from the point of view of the artist, any improvement. Perhaps not even an improvement from the point of view of the psychologist or not to the extent which we imagine; perhaps only in the end based upon a complication in economics and machinery. But the different between the present and the past is that the conscious present is an awareness of the past in a way and to an extent which the past's awareness of itself cannot show."
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Cited by http://quotationsbook.com/quote/44734/ to be from Walden (1854), ch. 1, p. 67 .
"Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate."
I found it via Miller & Page, Complex Adaptive Systems (2007), p. 215
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Unlike Soviet propagandists, who told people what to think, Russian propagandists tell people what they want to hear
Quote in context:
So far the state has not interfered in people’s personal lives. It gives them freedom to make money, consume, travel abroad, drive foreign cars and listen to any music they like. They are even free to criticise the Kremlin on radio, in print and on the internet, though not on television. And although Russia’s elections are stage-managed, the support for Mr Putin is genuine. During the war in Georgia it hit almost 90% in opinion polls. The biased television coverage plays its part, but unlike Soviet propagandists, who told people what to think, Russian propagandists tell people what they want to hear, says Georgy Satarov, who used to be an aide to a former president, Boris Yeltsin, and now runs INDEM, a think-tank. What people want to hear, especially as they are getting richer, is that their country is “rising from its knees”, sticking its flag in the Arctic Circle, winning football games and chasing the Americans out of Georgia.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Miller & Page in their Complex Adaptive Systems (2007) p. 6 cite Paul Samuelson using it to describe economics, citing Samuelson's foreword in Michael Salzberg, Passion and Craft: Economists at work, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press (1999)
Paul H. Smith in Reading the Enemy's Mind (2005) mentions Max Planck, Niels Bohr and Max Born (without attribution).
Friday, December 12, 2008
“There are two ways to make a man richer, reasoned Rousseau: give him more money or curb his desires. Modern societies have done the former spectacularly well, but by continuously whetting appetites they have at the same time managed to negate a share of their success”
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
the same shit you get in any other book—a little bit mystical, but really about going to work every day and keeping your head down
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it
Monday, December 01, 2008
From the poem
... ... ... ... - or common starling
dead in mid-flight,
flashing dark color off preen oil
in wings barely stirring, whispering
ever so lightly as its slow turn falls
through air's open doors
toward the exuberant wreckage of August.
The full text of the poem is posted in the article Art into poetry by Peter Steele, Eureka Street, Jul/Aug 2005. Here's a fragment
... ... ... ... ... She enjoys
Bach in Heaven, his sacred Fantasies
For her alone spin like fabulous toys.
Lines shift and break, she finds it rich and right,
Such music out of black dots on the page,
Symbols, the world a symbol from her height,
Great voices rising like smoke from time’s wreckage.
American Statistical Association 71:791-799, quoted in Holling, C S, Stephen R Carpenter, William A Brock, and Lance H Gunderson, “Discoveries for Sustainable Futures”, Ch. 15 in Gunderson, Lance H and C S Holling, Panarchy: Understanding transformations in human and natural systems, Island Press (2002), p. 409
Wikiquote provides some alternative citations and variations:
"Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful."
--- Box, George E. P.; Norman R. Draper (1987). Empirical Model-Building and Response Surfaces, p. 424, Wiley. ISBN 0471810339.
"Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful."
--- Box and Draper, Empirical Model-Building, p. 74
"All models are false but some models are useful."
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Christopher Farrell: On Wall Street the talk is about return, but both of you emphasize risk.
Bogle: You can control risk. You can't control return. That's up to the beneficence that stock and bond markets are generous enough to bestow on us. That's why we talk about diversification.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
According to brainyquote, the fuller version is
"Where questions of style and exposition are concerned I try to follow a simple maxim: if you can't say it clearly you don't understand it yourself. "
Saturday, October 18, 2008
--- David M. Friedman, Law’s Order, Princeton University Press (2000), Epilogue, p. 309
Quote in context:
The world has limited space and resources and is occupied by people with differing beliefs and objectives. From those simple facts comes the potential for conflict. I want to hunt a deer across the field where you are trying to grow wheat. You want to go swimming in the stream where I am trying to catch fish.
The simple and obvious solution is the direct use of physical force. You plant a thorn hedge around your wheat field to persuade me to hunt deer somewhere else. I hit you over the head with a tree branch to convince you to swim somewhere else.
This is not a very satisfactory solution to the problem; it is expensive in time, effort, scratches and bruises, and frequently fails of its objective. Indeed, the direct use of force is so poor a solution to the problem of limited resources and diverse ends that it is rarely employed save by small children and great nations.
Our society has a very large industry in the business of transferring money from one future to another: the insurance industry
Quote in a little context:
Our society has a very large industry in the business of transferring money from one future to another: the insurance industry. When you buy fire insurance you are giving up money in a future in which your house does not burn down in order to collect money in a future in which it does, transferring wealth from one future to another.This is a most wonderful book: a marvelous introduction to the field of law & economics.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Context from the article:
Some argue that the media's focus on shocking or traumatic news stimulates the intuitive, non-thinking side of our decision-making and is at the root of many misjudgements. "We are not rational enough to be exposed to the press," says Nassim Nicholas Taleb, co-director of the Decision Research Laboratory at the London Business School. For an illustration of this, look no further than the vastly different perceptions of the risks from terrorism and lightning strikes, each of which has killed roughly the same number of Americans since records began.Taleb is also quoted as saying:
A good example of how graphic media coverage can distort our perceptions of real events is the finding by James Ost at the University of Portsmouth, UK, and colleagues that people who were highly exposed to news reports of the terrorist bombings in London on 7 July 2005 were more likely to recall things about the attacks that they could never have witnessed, such as whether or not the bus that was blown up in Tavistock Square was moving at the time (Memory, vol 16, p 76).
. . .
Taleb thinks teaching people the facts about risks will not help to change behaviour. He says it would be more productive to teach people to screen out the information that distorts our decision-making than to teach them to use general information better. "If it was possible to teach people to adjust their behaviour to risks, we wouldn't have smokers. But we do. Our intelligence doesn't translate into behaviour the way we think it should."
"Put wax in your ears. People are more afraid of flying than driving because the press does not report car accidents. I never watch the news. Only listen to news you get in a social setting, the things people talk about. Our brains cannot deal with the overload of information. Having a lot of data is not good for anyone trying to make a decision."
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Quote in context:
All this classification has led to a rather fundamental question, and whoever cracks it will take the Clay prize: is NP really any different from P? To put it plainly, if it is easy to check the accuracy of any proposed solution to a problem, must there be an easy way to solve the problem in the first place?
The smart money says NP problems need not be P: even if it is easy to check any proposed solution to a problem, you can't solve that problem efficiently by making repeated guesses and checking them in turn, because the sheer number of possibilities is too large. Think of opening a combination lock by trying every combination in turn. A single satisfying "click" greets the correct answer, but if you are dealing with a sophisticated lock you could spend a lifetime trying successive combinations. Guessing at a computer password is another example.
Even without the Clay prize as motivation, most mathematicians would sell their mothers into slavery to find out whether NP is distinct from P because it is such a baffling and fundamental problem. The truly tantalising thing about this conundrum is that it is an example of an "NP-complete" problem. NP-complete problems are a subset of NP problems and are special in that if an efficient solution to any of them can be found, then that same solution can be used to solve any NP problem efficiently. In other words, finding an efficient way to solve any NP-complete problem means we have shown that all NP problems are effectively P.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
"The young man is also an idealist. He has yet to find out that what's in the public interest is not what the public is interested in."
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
A little more of the Hobbes quote:
Words are wise men’s counters, they do but reckon by them; but they are the money of fools, that value them by the authority of an Aristotle, a Cicero, or a Thomas, or any other doctor whatsoever, if but a man.
The context in Pinker leading up to this quote:
The theory of conceptual semantics, which proposes that word senses are mentally represented as expressions in a richer and more abstract language of thought, stands at the center of this circle, compatible with all of the complications. Word meanings can vary across languages because children assemble and fine-tune them from more elementary concepts. They can be precise because the concepts zero in on some aspects of reality and slough off the rest. And they can support our reasoning because they represent lawful aspects of reality – space, time, causality, objects, intentions, and logic – rather than the system of noises that developed in a community to allow them to communicate. Conceptual semantics fits, too, with our commonsense notion that words are not the same as thoughts, and indeed, that much of human wisdom consists of not mistaking one for the other.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Excerpt from the poem:
If you could crowd them into forty lines!
Yes; you can do it, once you get a start;
All that you want is waiting in your head,
For long-ago you’ve learnt it off by heart.
. . .
You’ve got your limitations; let them sing,
And all your life will waken with a cry:
Why should you halt when rapture’s on the wing
And you’ve no limit but the cloud-flocked sky?...
. . .
I told you it was easy! ... Words are fools
Who follow blindly, once they get a lead.
But thoughts are kingfishers that haunt the pools
Of quiet; seldom-seen: and all you need
Is just that flash of joy above your dream.
So, when those forty platitudes are done,
You’ll hear a bird-note calling from the stream
That wandered through your childhood; and the sun
Will strike the old flaming wonder from the waters....
And there’ll be forty lines not yet begun.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Quote in context:
I met Cedric for lunch in a noodle bar close to his office in Manhattan. He had gotten the job he wanted, at the investment bank . . . We began talking about everyone in our class and how they were getting along. Several had already left the jobs they had taken upon graduating, while others were seriously considering doing so. Why, I asked Cedric, had they taken these jobs in the first place? It's not as though we didn't know what they would involve.
"HBS," he said, hoisting a ball of noodles to his mouth, "is a factory for unhappy people. We have so many choices, and yet so few people seem happy about that. It just makes them anxious. And more anxious. And then they make terrible decisions about their lives. But," he added, "these are mostly very good people. People from good families with good values. I can't figure out what happens. I think they just get desperate."
Friday, September 05, 2008
--- Mirei Shigemori, master of the modern Japanese dry landscape garden, "Shinsakuteiki" in Shigemori Mirei Sakuhinshū: Niwa-Kamigami e no Apurōchi, cited in Christian Tschumi, Mirei Shigemori: Modernizing the Japanese Garden, Stone Bridge Press: 2005, p. 116, footnote 63.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Second Life mania parallels the virtual world enthusiasm of the mid to late Nineties: All dressed up, somewhere to go, not enough to say or do
Monday, August 25, 2008
"When you first come, you realize immediately why they left," says Mr. Laumb. "And then 10 minutes later you realize why they all want to come home."
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Oakley reports on various studies done with his collaborators. From the article:
We found that fiction readers had substantially greater empathy as measured by the mind-in-the-eyes test, and also performed somewhat better on the interpersonal perception test than people who read predominantly non-fiction.
It's not just reading preferences of different personality types; they controlled for this. The effect is pretty immediate:
We found that people who read the Chekhov story underwent larger changes in personality than those who read the control text - although the types of changes varied from person to person. Results from the emotions questionnaire indicated that the personality changes were mediated by the emotions experienced while reading: a person's emotional state is known to influence their scores on personality tests.
This is why I liken fiction to a simulation that runs on the software of our minds. And it is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.
Friday, August 08, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
the keen pleasure that comes from taking up a text and leaving it tighter, clearer, and more accurate
Quote in context:
“Those who do not edit do not understand the keen pleasure that comes from taking up a text and leaving it tighter, clearer, and more accurate. Working against deadline provides a structure and a stimulus. And it is far from widely understood how smart and funny copy editors are as a group.”
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Full quote: There are no side effects—only effects. Those we thought of in advance, the ones we like, we call the main, or intended, effects, and take credit for them. The ones we didn’t anticipate, the ones that came around and bit us in the rear—those are the ‘‘side effects’’.
Friday, July 11, 2008
There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but...
In full: "There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time"
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
See also The Columbia World of Quotations (1996) #32773, "A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth," Guardian (London, Jan. 14, 1992)
The challenge for the government [is] managing the creative destruction so that capitalism does not ... destroy itself for ... political reasons
“Schumpeter, like his contemporary Karl Polanyi, feared for the long-term survival of capitalism. Bureaucrats and ideologues threatened by creative destruction would resist it. The challenge for the government in managing the market thus becomes not just the Adam Smithian task of securing property rights, enforcing contracts, and providing civil order, but also the tremendously difficult job of managing the creative destruction so that capitalism does not undermine and destroy itself for essentially political reasons. Schumpeter did not think the beast could be managed, because democracy is hostile to great inequalities, and socialism even more so.”
Four thousand pieces of a Porsche are more difficult to value than a Porsche itself and the sum of the parts does not equal the whole
Quote in context:
"The fact that deciding on a fair value has been so tough reflects the complexity of the products as much as the state of the markets. Setting a price for derivatives that have been repeatedly repackaged, overcollateralised and subordinated is difficult in any conditions. “Four thousand pieces of a Porsche are more difficult to value than a Porsche itself and the sum of the parts does not equal the whole,” says Bill Michael of KPMG, an accountancy firm (choosing an appropriate car)."
Monday, June 23, 2008
Shanqiunshu 20, quoted in Mark Elvin, “Was There a Transcendental Breakthrough in China?,” in S. N. Eisenstadt, ed., The Origins and Diversity of Axial Age Civilizations (Albany 1980), p. 352, quoted in K. Armstrong, The Great Transformation (New York 2006), p. 335
As given in Armstrong: "A state that uses good people to govern the wicked will be plagued by disorder and destroyed. A state that uses the wicked to govern the good always enjoys order and becomes strong."
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Why would we expect elected officials to immediately change policy based on randomised trial research if we can't get doctors to wash their hands?
There is another barrier to evidence-based policy - just because the evidence is there does not compel anyone to use it. School driving lessons, Scared Straight programmes and many other policies continue despite solid evidence that they do not work. "What's not there is the automatic transfer of knowledge to practice," says Sherman. He points out that we have known since the 1850s that doctors can save lives by washing their hands more, yet in intensive care units the failure of doctors to wash their hands is still a major cause of death.
"Why would we expect elected officials to immediately change policy based on randomised trial research if we can't get doctors to wash their hands?" Sherman believes that policy documents, and journalists, should be clearer about the quality of evidence for new policies to help the good ones make their mark.
Quote in context:
"Their genius is a testament to our own worth, and antidote to insignificance; and their bounteous flaws are luckless but seemingly natural complements, as though greatness can be doled out only with an equal measure of weakness."
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Reported by Jeremy Paxman in On Royalty, Penguin 2006, p. 228, citing Rev. Charlie Wilson “a Church of Scotland minister who considers the queen a good friend, [who] says he one asked her how she maintained her enthusiasm.” This is what she told him.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
Quote in context:
"The person who perhaps best embodied the smart-and-useless parameter was Yossi Vardi, the tech investor and distinguished prankster, who had come to New York from Israel with his older brother Didi. Vardi, who is sixty-four, helped found ICQ, the Instant Messaging program. When asked what he planned to do with his three and a half minutes, he said, “I’m going to demonstrate how you can transfer data faster with snails than with broadband.” He said that he had sixty PowerPoint slides, but, he warned, “PowerPoint presentations damage your brain. If you look at too many, you become immoral.”
"In the church, he presented meticulously researched, technically correct, but completely ridiculous charts and graphs. He compared various data-transfer systems: ISDN, ADSL, Wi-Fly (that is, pigeons). Then he showed a slide of a snail hitched to a tiny chariot with DVDs for wheels. If each disk contains 4.7 gigabytes of data, and if the snail (chasing a scrap of lettuce) travels at 0.000023 metres per second, the snail-system performance rate is over thirty-seven megabits per second. That blows ADSL out of the water. (There are flaws, however. As Vardi noted, “In some regions, most notably France, culinary habits may pose a denial-of-service problem.”) Dubno rang a bell and shooed Vardi from the stage."
Quote in context:
"Over the 35 years, American business has delivered terrific results. It should therefore have been easy for investors to earn juicy returns: All they had to do was piggyback Corporate America in a diversified, low-expense way. An index fund that they never touched would have done the job. Instead many investors have had experiences ranging from mediocre to disastrous.
"There have been three primary causes: first, high costs, usually because investors traded excessively or spent far too much on investment management; second, portfolio decisions based on tips and fads rather than on thoughtful, quantified evaluation of businesses; and third, a start-and-stop approach to the market marked by untimely entries (after an advance has been long underway) and exits (after periods of stagnation or decline). Investors should remember that excitement and expenses are their enemies. And if they insist on trying to time their participation in equities, they should try to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful."
Themistocles was brilliant, farsighted, creative, tireless, magnanimous, courageous, and eloquent. Yet it as also true that during the course of his career he lied, cheated, blustered, and threatened; grabbed credit for others' ideas; manipulated religion; took bribes and extorted protection money; served up insults and pursued vendetta; and ended his days in exile, a traitor. In short, Themistocles was no angel, but seraphim could not have saved the Greeks.
This has been interpreted to mean that each and every fight has it's own special set of circumstances (here), or that everything is relative to the particular situation.
David Mamet, "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal': An election-season essay", Village Voice, March 11th, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Full text courtesy of stereopsis
He who seeks truth shall find beauty.
He who seeks beauty shall find vanity.
He who seeks order shall find gratification.
He who seeks gratification shall be disappointed.
He who considers himself the servant of his fellow beings shall find the joy of self expression.
He who seeks self expression shall fall into the pit of arrogance.
Arrogance is incompatible with nature.
Through nature, the nature of the universe, and the nature of man, we shall seek truth.
If we seek truth, we shall find beauty.
Friday, February 08, 2008
Theology or religious speculation bears the same relationship to real experience as pornography does to lovemaking
Source: Jon Pareles, "At lunch with Leonard Cohen: Philosophical Songwriter on a Wire", The New York Times, October 11, 1995, available at: http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/news3.html
I've always found theology a certain kind of delightful titillation. Theology or religious speculation bears the same relationship to real experience as pornography does to lovemaking. They're not entirely unconnected. I mean, you can get turned on. One of the reasons that they're both powerful is that they ignore a lot of other material and they focus in on something very specific. In these days of overload, it's very restful to know, at last, what you're talking about.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Quote in context, in the translation by Philip Littell; available from Gutenberg.org:
The whole little society entered into this laudable design, according to
their different abilities. Their little plot of land produced plentiful
crops. Cunegonde was, indeed, very ugly, but she became an excellent
pastry cook; Paquette worked at embroidery; the old woman looked after
the linen. They were all, not excepting Friar Giroflée, of some service
or other; for he made a good joiner, and became a very honest man.
Pangloss sometimes said to Candide:
"There is a concatenation of events in this best of all possible worlds:
for if you had not been kicked out of a magnificent castle for love of
Miss Cunegonde: if you had not been put into the Inquisition: if you had
not walked over America: if you had not stabbed the Baron: if you had
not lost all your sheep from the fine country of El Dorado: you would
not be here eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts."
"All that is very well," answered Candide, "but let us cultivate our
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
In context: The right attitude in philosophy is to accept aims that we can achieve only fractionally and imperfectly, and cannot be sure of achieving even to that extent. It means in particular not abandoing the pursuit of truth, even though if you want the truth rather than merely something to say, you will have a good deal less to say.