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“There is this magic that our DNA enables”

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I was just at a talk where a computer scientist was making dramatic claims for the value of human decision making. This is typically a crowd-pleasing position to take—after all, we in the audience are humans and we want to hear how great we are.

What really riled me was when the speaker said, “There is this magic that our DNA enables . . .” as a way of saying why humans are so important.

As I wrote a few years ago, it used to be that humans were defined as the rational animal, and now we’re defined as the irrational computer.

It used to be that what we, humans, had to offer in the world was our rationality; now it’s our irrationality that’s valued.

I think the crowd-pleasing position taken by today’s speaker wass just B.S. Don’t get me wrong here, I think human decision making is important; I don’t think we can or should let computers make all our decisions for us.

But let’s not get mystical about it.

“There is this magic that our DNA enables . . .”: This seems to me to be a bizarre sort of techno-mysticism.

The funny thing is, when the speaker was talking about specific research and development, everything said was reasonable. My problem was only in the generalities.

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socratic
5 days ago
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Aristotle's Golden Mean

3 Comments and 9 Shares
True virtue is to only bother Aristotle with asinine objections to his theories about half the time.
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socratic
157 days ago
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3 public comments
francisga
156 days ago
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The real paradox is why Aristotle is wearing that hat
Lafayette, LA, USA
jepler
157 days ago
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this is a good'un
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
freeAgent
157 days ago
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Alternate title: The Limit of Aristotle's Golden Mean as Zeno's Annoying Questioning Approaches Infinity.
Los Angeles, CA
90 days ago
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Screentime

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
You can tell she has a problem because she never stops wearing the same blue shirt.


Today's News:
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socratic
168 days ago
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M87 Black Hole Size Comparison

4 Comments and 18 Shares
I think Voyager 1 would be just past the event horizon, but slightly less than halfway to the bright ring.
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socratic
233 days ago
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sness
243 days ago
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woah
milky way
kbrint
245 days ago
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Hard to fathom!
jth
246 days ago
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Stunning illustration of the size of the M87 black hole compared to our system.
Saint Paul, MN, USA
stefanetal
237 days ago
showing M87 vs the Milky Way supermassive black hole would be nice too (i.e. ours is much smaller, by a factor of about 10^9 in volume). The M87 SMBH is so large it's density is lower than the earth's density.
alt_text_bot
246 days ago
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I think Voyager 1 would be just past the event horizon, but slightly less than halfway to the bright ring.

Curve-Fitting

4 Comments and 14 Shares
Cauchy-Lorentz: "Something alarmingly mathematical is happening, and you should probably pause to Google my name and check what field I originally worked in."
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socratic
446 days ago
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mburch42
447 days ago
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Stats!
ChrisDL
449 days ago
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the fact that the same dots both taper off and grow uncontrollably offends me.
New York
alt_text_at_your_service
449 days ago
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Cauchy-Lorentz: "Something alarmingly mathematical is happening, and you should probably pause to Google my name and check what field I originally worked in."
alt_text_bot
449 days ago
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Cauchy-Lorentz: "Something alarmingly mathematical is happening, and you should probably pause to Google my name and check what field I originally worked in."

Supreme Court Bracket

3 Comments and 7 Shares
My bracket was busted in the first round; I had Massachusetts v. Connecticut in the final, probably in a case over who gets to annex Rhode Island.
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socratic
475 days ago
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DuskStar
476 days ago
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No Wickard v. Filburn?

I have no idea how he chose the cases for this one.
Ann Arbor MI
alt_text_at_your_service
476 days ago
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My bracket was busted in the first round; I had Massachusetts v. Connecticut in the final, probably in a case over who gets to annex Rhode Island.
alt_text_bot
476 days ago
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My bracket was busted in the first round; I had Massachusetts v. Connecticut in the final, probably in a case over who gets to annex Rhode Island.
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