August 31, 2014

The Mental Virtues

The Mental Virtues (David Brooks 08/29/14 NYT) Character and Thinking, the important elements; Is it possible to display and cultivate character if you are just an information age office jockey, alone with a memo or your computer?

Love of learning. Some people are just more ardently curious than others, either by cultivation or by nature.

Second, there is courage. The obvious form of intellectual courage is the willingness to hold unpopular views. But the subtler form is knowing how much risk to take in jumping to conclusions. (Intellectual courage is self-regulation, Roberts and Wood argue, knowing when to be daring and when to be cautious.)

Third, there is firmness. You don’t want to be a person who surrenders his beliefs at the slightest whiff of opposition. On the other hand, you don’t want to hold dogmatically to a belief against all evidence. The median point between flaccidity and rigidity is the virtue of firmness. Firmness is a quality of mental agility.

Fourth, there is humility, which is not letting your own desire for status get in the way of accuracy. The humble person fights against vanity and self-importance. He’s not writing those sentences people write to make themselves seem smart; he’s not thinking of himself much at all. The humble researcher doesn’t become arrogant toward his subject, assuming he has mastered it. Such a person is open to learning from anyone at any stage in life.

Fifth, there is autonomy. You don’t want to be a person who slavishly adopts whatever opinion your teacher or some author gives you. On the other hand, you don’t want to reject all guidance from people who know what they are talking about. Autonomy is the median of knowing when to bow to authority and when not to, when to follow a role model and when not to, when to adhere to tradition and when not to.

Finally, there is generosity. This virtue starts with the willingness to share knowledge and give others credit. But it also means hearing others as they would like to be heard, looking for what each person has to teach and not looking to triumphantly pounce upon their errors.

The mind is embedded in human nature, and very often thinking well means pushing against the grain of our nature — against vanity, against laziness, against the desire for certainty, against the desire to avoid painful truths. Good thinking isn’t just adopting the right technique. It’s a moral enterprise and requires good character, the ability to go against our lesser impulses for the sake of our higher ones.

(Shared from Google Keep)

March 22, 2014

Our Comrade the Electron

https://static.pinboard.in/webstock_2014.htm

Our Comrade the Electron by MACIEJ CEGLOWSKI

"We put so much care into making the Internet resilient from technical failures, but make no effort to make it resilient to political failure. We treat freedom and the rule of law like inexhaustible natural resources, rather than the fragile and precious treasures that they are.
And now, of course, it's time to make the Internet of Things, where we will connect everything to everything else, and build cool apps on top, and nothing can possibly go wrong."

Highly recommend you read this very poignant essay. Predicting how society, culture and governments will respond to technological change is nearly impossible.

March 18, 2014

Study Questions Fat and Heart Disease Link - NYTimes.com

Study Questions Fat and Heart Disease Link - NYTimes.com: "Many of us have long been told that saturated fat, the type found in meat, butter and cheese, causes heart disease. But a large and exhaustive new analysis by a team of international scientists found no evidence that eating saturated fat increased heart attacks and other cardiac events."


So, another long-standing medical axiom seems to have bitten the dust.



I have always maintained that reasonably healthy people who eat a balanced diet will remain reasonably healthy. Given the diversity in the genetic makeup of our bodies, a one-rule-fits-all formulaic approach can only be relevant to average people. Of course, none of us is 'average.' We are all unique.



I believe we will eventually learn what foods are best for each of us based on our genome. We are getting closer to that goal as research gallops ahead.



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March 12, 2014

Interview with Founder of 23andMe Genetics Testing Company

This interview with Anne Wojicicki, the founder of the direct-to-consumer genetics testing company 23andMe provides her view of the potential of genetic testing for citizens.

My genetic information is in their database and I have been fascinated with the outputs provided.

I hope the FDA soon approves what they are doing as it relates to medical information so that the updates relevant to my DNA will continue.


An interesting dialogue about the FDA controversy is available here at Ycombinator.


January 18, 2014

The future of jobs: The onrushing wave | The Economist

The future of jobs: The onrushing wave | The Economist:

We are in for a long , difficult economic and societal dilemma as spelled out in this piece. The political expression of it is the growing gap between the rich and the poor and the hollowing out of the middle class that politicians bloviate about without offering any real solutions. Perhaps they fail to understand or believe the underlying problem, opting instead to try and legislate job growth..

I'm reading this book, The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies,  referenced in the Economist story, which provides deep insight about the disruption of the traditional economic expectations.

"In a forthcoming book Thomas Piketty, an economist at the Paris School of Economics, argues along similar lines that America may be pioneering a hyper-unequal economic model in which a top 1% of capital-owners and “supermanagers” grab a growing share of national income and accumulate an increasing concentration of national wealth. The rise of the middle-class—a 20th-century innovation—was a hugely important political and social development across the world. The squeezing out of that class could generate a more antagonistic, unstable and potentially dangerous politics.
The potential for dramatic change is clear. A future of widespread technological unemployment is harder for many to accept. Every great period of innovation has produced its share of labour-market doomsayers, but technological progress has never previously failed to generate new employment opportunities."
I believe it's different this time because of the blinding pace of technological change and the ability to explore new models of productivity, work and service, nearly all of which reduce the human labor content in many previously 'safe' occupations.

Our institutions are more deeply entrenched and harder to change. Poorly educated people do not stand a chance for their insufficient skills to command a good-paying job in this new economy. With more generous government benefits, the incentive to work disappears from most folks.

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January 6, 2014

Reality and Politics Clash

Government dependency is a corrosive force that undermines democracy. TeamObama's thrust to transform America creates a collision course toward the destruction of democracy. How is it that so many people fail to see this?

When people accept the government as their source of basic sustenance, the spark of personal responsibility is slowly extinguished. Following that is a loss of a person's verve to better his/her condition. When government largess supplants individual initiative, the country is on the road to its demise as an example of freedom and liberty.

This should be the core debate in the elections ahead.

Radical Islam vs the West

I have concluded that the West has lost control of the Middle East and those parts of the world, North Africa and other places, that are beset with Radical Islam played out in the Sunni-Shia-anti-Infidel conflict. The West is both unable and unwilling to confront this menace and it will only end with a MAJOR conflict.

Israel will act on any real threat to its existence and no amount of Kerry diplomacy will thwart the players driven by Islamist religious differences. This situation can only end in the Biblical Armageddon. Many prophecies foretell this conflict.

We may delay it, but the threat cannot be eliminated. War will inevitably happen and, IMHO, it will be nuclear.

December 31, 2013

TeamObama's Big Question

President Obama's big question:

Does he recover by trying to work with Republicans in Congress or by confronting them heading into next year's midterm elections?"

Credit WSJ 12/31/13
I'm guessing he will confront and aggressively enter campaign mode.

December 21, 2013

New Health Law Frustrates Many in Middle Class - NYTimes.com

New Health Law Frustrates Many in Middle Class - NYTimes.com:

The more I read about the failings of ObamaCare, not the website mess which can be fixed, but the underlying framework, the more I'm convinced it will fail. It is enormously complex with the net effect being higher costs for too many middle class people.

Perhaps it was constructed as an interim step destined to fail so that insurance companies would not suddenly fail. Was it designed with a small likelihood of success in an attempt to make single-payer a last resort option, which is what Obama, Dean, Shumlin and other liberal Democrats obviously prefer.

The political calculus in all this is fascinating to watch as it unfolds. The Democrats have a lot to lose in the 2014 election. The Republicans have a lot to gain, but being against ObamaCare is not by itself a winning strategy. They must come forth unified with a better plan. That should coalesce and be heavily promoted beginning in April with a solid strategy for implementation on the national level.

Without a viable plan they will fail to win the electorate. For me, any viable plan must include cost control. That means rationing and convincing providers and patients to accept it, a tall order.

"...An analysis by The New York Times shows the cost of premiums for people who just miss qualifying for subsidies varies widely across the country and rises rapidly for people in their 50s and 60s. In some places, prices can quickly approach 20 percent of a person’s income..."
The Republicans need to focus on fixing ObamaCare by strongly and truthfully promoting a rational solution. They  must win a majority in the Senate and retain control of the House with majorities to override potential vetoes by Obama in 2015 and 2016.

Single payer will not easily be accepted because trust in 'big government' is at an historic low, even among Democrats. The folks are unlikely to believe that they can pull off a single-payer plan.

I wonder if they're up to the task?


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December 7, 2013

2013 Atlantic hurricane season wrap-up: least active in 30 years

2013 Atlantic hurricane season wrap-up: least active in 30 years:

Oops, the experts really missed this forecast. Most likely they are wrong about global warming, too. This failure reveals the inherent weakness of climate and weather modeling.

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