|York Minster in the hail|
A view from the warmth of the pub. He's cradling a takeaway coffee. One guy stopped and gave him a cigarette. Others pressed coins into his hands.
"I’m gratified that many people have described me as warm and friendly and helpful (“surprisingly so,” one can almost hear them add, for such a socially-inept, self-obsessed nerd!). But there’s a reason for that.Read the whole of his extraordinary interview with Scientific American here.
"If I meet a new person, and they aren’t weird in the same ways I’m weird, my brain’s first questions tend to be: would this person be happy to rid the earth of me and everyone like me, regarding me as genetically defective? Is he or she merely temporarily prevented from doing so? In 1942, would he or she have smiled (as so much of Europe did smile) as I was loaded onto a cattle car?
"So then, if the person turns out—as most often they do—to be perfectly nice and decent, I’m so relieved and grateful that it’s like, how can I be anything but friendly and helpful in return?"
|Clare spotting for other beacons from Glastonbury Tor last night|
|Your author, stoic in the cold wind and gathering gloom, as they try to light it|
|The Beacon was finally alight|
|XKCD nails it again - "but somehow, I can't help myself ..."|
"My hunch is that there is a powerful correlation between those Tory MPs who want us to leave the EU, and those whom most people would describe as “right wing” more generally. There is no tick-box way of categorising a rightwinger: you have to look at a range of behaviours:
- a strong and persistent interest in military matters;
- a marked admiration for Republican US presidents;
- social illiberalism (look at attitudes towards gay marriage, for example; or some of the church-fuelled reaction to what the rest of us might call progressive social policy);
- a certain lack of interest in the state’s role in protecting workers or the active promotion of healthy living;
- ... state intervention that such MPs would call “wishy-washy liberalism”.
"All I can say is that in the Tory party you know a rightwinger when you meet one."
|Traditional conservatism - all boxes ticked, but moderately|
|This is broadly where Matthew Parris sits in the moral spectrum|
|Libertarian Brexiteers dislike the dead hand of European oversight|
|Brexit Authoritarians rally to a nationalist, communalist flag|
"It’s Project Fear that has turned us, and I don’t mind admitting it. Fear of the economic consequences of leaving. Distaste at many of the crew who want us out. Anxiety about the impact on our allies in Europe and worldwide if we kick this huge enterprise in European co-operation in the guts. Alarm at the rise of anger in the world. Shame that we British might come to be judged by history as vandals."Fear has often been enough, when moral buttons are not being pushed too hard. But heaven help the 'Remain' camp if something bad (morally-speaking) happens EU-wise later this spring.
|The six foundations to get us started (refer to the table above)|
|Liberal-leftists: it's 'caring', 'oppression' and 'equality - not much else|
|Conservatives care about all the foundations - equality of opportunity not outcome|
|Libertarians: 'Don't tread on me!' with a side-order of tough-fairness|
|Authoritarians: Loyalty, Obedience to Authority, Sanctity: No Free Riders!|
"At a lawyers conference I attended recently, the conversation turned to “The Innocence of Muslims,” the offensive YouTube video that has sparked riots throughout the Muslim world. “Why do they react this way?” a partner at a major law firm asked, referring to Muslim societies.
"The idea that people would take such offense at an inept video, and blame American society in general rather than the individuals who produced the film, was incomprehensible to this American lawyer: “We would never react that way.” The other lawyers agreed.
This conversation came back to me this week as I read Jonathan Haidt’s very worthwhile new book, The Righteous Mind. Mostly, the book explores the different moral psychologies of American conservatives and liberals. (Haidt argues that the differences are largely innate — “pre-wired,” he says — thus confirming Iolanthe’s famous observation that “every boy and every gal/ That’s born into the world alive/Is either a little Liberal /Or else a little Conservative!”).
"One chapter, though, compares American moral intuitions with those of other societies. America, Haidt says, has what psychologists call a WEIRD culture — Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. WEIRD cultures have a strong “ethic of autonomy”: they hold that “people are, first and foremost, autonomous individuals with wants, needs, and preferences” which, barring direct harm to others, should be fulfilled.
"In such cultures, as Jean Bethke Elshtain remarked at the annual Erasmus Lecture this week, “loyalty” principally means “being true to oneself.” The First Amendment reflects this ethic: it promotes the widest possible range of individual expression and advises offended listeners to avoid harm by turning away.
Largely through American influence, WEIRD values increasingly dominate international human rights discourse. This is ironic, because WEIRD cultures are global outliers — and America is the farthest outlier of all. Most of the world does not see autonomy as the most important value and does not privilege individual expression to the extent we do. Many cultures, Haidt says, have an “ethic of community” that sees people principally as members of collectives — families, tribes, and nations — with strong claims to loyalty. And many cultures have an “ethic of divinity,” which holds that people’s principal duty is to God, not themselves.
“In such societies,” Haidt writes, “the personal liberty of secular Western nations” — including the unrestrained freedom of expression — “looks like libertinism, hedonism, and a celebration of humanity’s baser instincts.”
Haidt’s account explains much of the incomprehension on display at that lawyers conference. To someone in a WEIRD cultural environment — and the educated upper-middle class in America, Haidt claims, is the WEIRDest environment of all — it is very hard to understand how people could feel morally outraged by an inept video that insults divinity. It seems so counter-intuitive.
"The incomprehension works the other way, too. To someone in a non-WEIRD environment, it is very hard to understand how people could feel morally justified defending sacrilegious expression. Haidt’s account suggests that the differences between these cultures are going to be extremely difficult to negotiate. Intuitions are stubborn things."
"We'd like to add another psychological tool to the toolbox: Moral Foundations Theory. One of us (Haidt) developed the theory in the early 2000s, with several other social psychologists, in order to study moral differences across cultures. Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) draws on anthropology and on evolutionary biology to identify the universal "taste buds" of the moral sense, while at the same time explaining how every society creates its own unique morality.
"Think of it like this: Evolution gave all human beings the same taste receptors — for sweet, sour, salt, bitter, and umami (or MSG) — but cultures then create unique cuisines, constrained by the fact that the cuisine must please those taste receptors. Moral foundations work much the same way. The six main moral taste receptors, according to MFT, are:
"As with cuisines, societies vary a great deal in the moralities they construct out of these universal predispositions. Many traditional agricultural and herding societies rely heavily on the loyalty, authority, and sanctity foundations to create rituals, myths, and religious institutions that bind groups together with a strong tribal consciousness.
- Care/harm: We feel compassion for those who are vulnerable or suffering.
- Fairness/cheating: We constantly monitor whether people are getting what they deserve, whether things are balanced. We shun or punish cheaters.
- Liberty/oppression: We resent restrictions on our choices and actions; we band together to resist bullies.
- Loyalty/betrayal: We keep track of who is "us" and who is not; we enjoy tribal rituals, and we hate traitors.
- Authority/subversion: We value order and hierarchy; we dislike those who undermine legitimate authority and sow chaos.
- Sanctity/degradation: We have a sense that some things are elevated and pure and must be kept protected from the degradation and profanity of everyday life. (This foundation is best seen among religious conservatives, but you can find it on the left as well, particularly on issues related to environmentalism.)
"That can be highly effective for groups that are often attacked by neighboring rivals, but commercial societies (such as Amsterdam in the 17th century or New York City today) are far less in need of these foundations, and so make much less use of them.
"Their moral values, stories, and political institutions flow more directly from the liberty and fairness foundations — well suited to a culture based on exchange and production — and are therefore much more tolerant and open to ethnic diversity.
"In recent years, MFT has been used to study political differences between the American left and right. Republicans and Democrats in the United States are now in some ways like citizens of different countries, with different beliefs about American history, the Constitution, economics, and climate science.
"Using questionnaires, text analyses, and other methods, psychologists have found that progressives put more emphasis on the care foundation than do other groups, while social conservatives see more value in loyalty, authority, and sanctity than do other groups. Libertarians, meanwhile, put liberty far above all other moral concerns.
"Fairness, important to all groups, nonetheless has subtypes: The left values fairness more when it is presented as equality, particularly equality of outcomes between groups (which is at the heart of social justice). The right values fairness more than the left when it is presented as proportionality — a focus on merit, which includes a desire to let people fail when they are perceived to have been lazy or otherwise undeserving."
"Here's a graph showing how how each candidate's supporters prioritize each of the moral foundations compared with the average American.
"Bars above zero indicate that the candidate's supporters place more emphasis on that particular moral foundation compared with the average voter.
"Bars that dip down below zero do not mean those supporters do not care about the moral concern, only that they gave relatively lower ratings to it compared with the rest of our nationally representative survey sample."
|Diagram edited to remove Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson|
"Voters who still score high on authority/loyalty/sanctity and low on care — even after accounting for all the demographic variables — are significantly more likely to vote for Donald Trump. These are the true authoritarians — they value obedience while scoring low on compassion."In the UK the only similar politician who comes to mind is Nigel Farage, who is not a serious contender for power. David Cameron is most like Jeb Bush, who scored pretty much where the average American was .. and got booted out of a highly-partisan contest for his pains.
"We want to accelerate a few grams to c/5. The kinetic energy may still be "barely" computed by the non-relativistic formula and it is E = mc2/50. If m were 5 grams, we get 9 trillion joules."Now, one kiloton of TNT (a small nuke) is equivalent to 4 trillion joules, so when this interstellar probe hits the atmosphere of a planet around Alpha Centauri, it's going to look to the alien inhabitants like someone detonated a 2 kt nuke in their atmosphere. Did anyone mention we're going to send a swarm of these things?
"A half-dozen centuries in the future, humanity has stumbled into a fortuitous discovery of a faster than light interstellar travel technology and spreads out across the habitable planets of the galaxy, never encountering any other intelligent life.Centauri Dreams wonders about the project itself, the timescales and whether it would work. No-one seems to have seen the engineering plans for the interstellar device, but with accelerations estimated in the region of 20,000-60,000g you can forget anything with a framed structure. The ultrathin sail will be the entire device, embedding sensors, communications and control.
"Then a slower-than-light spacecraft driven by a light sail arrives from an unexplored solar system.
"Our Space Navy goes to visit the planet that sent it and discovers a civilization that seems as advanced as ours, except they don’t have our faster-than-light travel technology, so they are stuck in their solar system, except for sending out the occasional expensive probe. We can visit them, but they can’t visit us.
"Their extremely gracious ambassadors greet our ambassadors in a most affable manner.
"The book then turns into an ecological detective story as a few suspicious Earthlings try to unravel the complex story of the Moties’ nature before diplomacy gets too far advanced to put the brakes on proposals such as sharing the FTL drive with the aliens in the name of interstellar harmony and goodwill. We wouldn’t want to be seen as speciesist, now would we?"
"Writing for The Atlantic, Ross Andersen describes the sail this way in Inside a Billionaire’s New Interstellar Mission:It's easy to poke holes in the mission concept as we currently understand it:
"Picture a thin disc about the size of a round picnic tabletop. It would have miniaturized electronics onboard, including a power source, cameras, photon thrusters for navigation, and a laser for communication. Some of this kit would be bundled into the disc’s center, and some would be distributed through the rest of the sail. But it would all be a single unit: If you saw it streaking by, it would look like a flat, round sheet of reflective material.
"We’ve also got a problem in that concept, because Jim Benford has pointed out that a flat sail is not a good ‘beam-rider’ — we’ll likely have to look at the kind of curved sail designs both Jim and brother Gregory Benford have studied in lab work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. But get a sail under that beam successfully and it reaches Pluto the day after launch, as Andersen notes. Another 20 years and it’s streaking through the Alpha Centauri system."
(mean = 100; std dev = σ = 15).And suppose a catastrophe occurred which led to half the population emigrating - such things have been known to happen in European history.
So R = 0.6 *12 = 7 IQ points below the original population mean.Their descendants will have an average IQ of 93.
|Diagram from here|
"A footnote on the Google Photos website says that “[Facial recognition] feature isn’t available in all countries,” probably due to privacy laws, but there’s a simple workaround that will help you bring face detection in your Google Photos, no matter where you are.It all works though you have to give the Google AI machine sufficient time to search and catalogue your photos - a few hours should do it.
- Go to your Android phone settings, select “Apps”, then select “Photos” under the “Downloaded” section and click the “Clear Data” button to reset your Google Photos app.
- Go to the Google Play store and download TunnelBear or Hola or any of your favorite VPN apps.
- Open the VPN app and connect. It will essentially trick Photos into thinking that you are connecting from US, a country that is supported by Google Photos for facial recognition.
- Open the Google Photos app, scroll past the wizard screen and then under Settings, enable the option that says “Group Similar Faces – Auto Group photos by matching faces.”
"Disable, or even uninstall, the VPN app, launch Google Photos again and tap the blue search button. You should see a list of faces that Google Photos was able to detect from your uploaded photos. And the feature will automatically become available on photos.google.com as well."
"4. There is no spooky action at a distance
"Nowhere in quantum mechanics is information ever transmitted non-locally, so that it jumps over a stretch of space without having to go through all places in between. Entanglement is itself non-local, but it doesn’t do any action – it is a correlation that is not connected to non-local transfer of information or any other observable.
"It was a great confusion in the early days of quantum mechanics, but we know today that the theory can be made perfectly compatible with Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity in which information cannot be transferred faster than the speed of light."
"Myers is both confused and insulting in his blog post, but I'll refrain from ad hominem attacks, and just focus on the science.Worth following the link even if you're older than five.
Myers seems to think that humans with much better cognitive abilities than our own can't exist. Sort of like a farmer in 1957 claiming that chickens that are bigger and faster maturing than his own could not exist [...] . I urge Myers to read some books on population genetics before returning to this discussion.
"The argument for why there are probably genomes not very different from our own, but which lead to much better cognitive ability, is very simple, and I went through it in a post called Explain it to me like I'm five years old [...] ."
'Students be careful, there's someone walking around in kkk gear with a whip.'
"Residential hall advisor Ethan Gill quickly wrote an email to his students, warning them of the “threat” on campus: “There has been a person reported walking around campus in a KKK outfit holding a whip. Because the person is protected under first amendment rights, IUPD cannot remove this person from campus unless an act of violence is committed. Please PLEASE PLEASE be careful out there tonight, always be with someone and if you have no dire reason to be out of the building, I would recommend staying indoors if you’re alone.”
"Later in the evening, Gill was forced to retract his warning on his Facebook page, where he clarified that the purported Klansman was actually just an innocent priest dressed in liturgical garments. The “whip” turned out to be the clergyman’s robe-like belt that was tied around his waist."