- CATEGORY / nescience
- Natural selection, statistical mechanics, and the idea of germs were all inspired by social science
It’s only natural to want to hold your scientific field as the most important, or noble, or challenging field. That’s probably why I always present the sciences of human society as the ones that are hardest to do. It’s not so crazy: it is inherently harder to learn about social systems than biological, engineered, or […]
- How would science be different if humans were different?
How would science be different if humans were different — if we had different physiological limits? Obviously, if our senses were finer, we wouldn’t need the same amount of manufactured instrumentation to reach the same conclusions. But there are deeper implications. If our senses were packed denser, and if we could faithfully process and perceive […]
- Cultural arbitrariness is not the thing that is at the root of how race doesn’t exist.
On the old Radiolab episode about race, the producers used an interesting fact to make an argument that race doesn’t exist — that it’s entirely a social construct. It turns out that the genetic variability within races is greater than the variability between races; the average difference between two people of the same race is […]
- The law of welfare royalty
To propose that human society is governed by laws is generally foolhardy. I wouldn’t object to a Law of Social Laws to push along the lines that all generalizations are false. But this observation has a bit going for it, namely that it depends on the inherent complexity of society, and on human limits. Those […]
- The selling out diaries: Surprising sources of pressure
I’m a behavioral scientist, pretty lefty, and I currently do research for a major media corporation. I predicted before taking on this job that I would feel some pressure to drift from deeper questions about society towards “business school” questions — questions that are less about human behavior and more about consumer behavior. What I […]
- Betable.com on the ethics of developing addictive social games
I’m looking at using big social game data to do science. I wanted to advance my own thinking about the ethical issues, so I rooted up some of the names that are pushing the social-gaming conversation in new directions. Among the places I found was Betable.com, a social gaming startup that is very excited to […]
- How we create culture from noise
I don’t like to act too knowledgable about society, but I’m ready to conjecture law: “Peoples will interpret patterns into the phenomena that affect their lives, even phenomena without patterns. Culture amplifies pareidolia.” It’s interesting when those patterns are random, as in weather and gambling. “Random” is a pretty good model for weather outside the […]
- Translation with rotation. An American railroad man sold Marx on Iroquois culture.
By a strange irony, the League of the Iroquois has become a model for Marxist theory. The twisting trail that leads to Friedrich Engels begins with Lewis Henry Morgan, a Rochester lawyer and lobbyist for railroads. His interest in the Iroquois was aroused because he wanted to use their rituals in a rather sophomoric fraternal […]
- Are existential crises heavier when you don’t exist?
This robot fails the turing test on herself. She can keep Claude Shannon’s Ultimate Machine company in the category of Self Denying Automata That I Think Are Deep But I Can’t Tell And That’s Why They Are.
- A list of things I wanted to know in July 2013
the biology of mushrooms the mathematical methods of physics: how to wreak havoc on equations the name and history every plant I step on when we should have decentralized control, when we should have bosses the contributions of statistical physics to social science more theoretical neuro more theoretical bio more theoretical ecology how to evolve […]
- Enfascination 2013
“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Thus spoke Martin Luther King Jr. in a great endorsement for humility, curiosity, and discovery. On Thinko de Mayo, from 1PM, you will have five minutes to help us see how dangerous we are. You may share anything at all during your […]
- Never too smart to be very wrong
A lot of my life choices and habits of thought have been devoted to never letting myself get permanently attached something that’s wrong. That would be my hell, and I think that there’s always a risk of it. Somehow there is no being humble enough. As an exercise for myself, and as an illustration of […]
- Undrugs: Sugar pill may work even when you know it’s sugar pill
You’re sick? Here’s a sugar pill. We know that it can’t work. Take it anyway. You’ll feel better. Introduced starting at 9:54. I think the interview is boring before then; he rambles. My crush on the placebo effect started at Berkeley in Prof. Presti’s molecular neurobiology course. He introduced us to a very carefully controlled […]
- Seeing the Earth, in the sky, from Earth
Uncountably many photons have come from the sun, bounced off of me, and shot back into space. One day one of them is going to come back. Photons turn as they pass heavy things. A photon retreating from me is being turned, slowly, over billions of empty years, all the way around. A black hole […]
- “In the days of the frost seek a minor sun”
From unsympathetic eyes, no science is more arrogant than astronomy. Astronomers think that we can know the universe and replace the dreams and the meaning in the skies with a cold place that is constantly dying. But I think that there is no more humble science than astronomy. No science has had so much romance […]
- My Awe Talk: Inventors who were killed by their own inventions
Awe Talks are a 5-minute fun lecture series started by my pal Kyle. He asked me to record one, here: http://vimeo.com/59541529
- Postdoc ergo propter doc
People imagine that experts know lots of things. I mean, it’s true, but that’s like saying the ocean is full of sand. The ocean, as full of sand as it is, is more full of questions. I think we all miss the point of expertise a little, but experts are the farthest off. I’m on […]
- Grad school can make you smarter?
I really didn’t think I would come out of graduate school as a smarter person. I knew that I would know more about stuff, but I assumed, if anything, I would come out constrained by some understanding of how epiphany “should” happen. But I had a funny experience playing Minesweeper yesterday. It was a lapse: […]
- Islands that don’t exist
- How to be a bad boss on Mechanical Turk, and hopefully how to fix it.
Hi, I’m Seth and I just screwed over lots of people on Mechanical Turk. My writing this is an attempt to fix that. I was negligent because I didn’t check the code that was reviewing the jobs (which rejected 70% of maybe 1000 people), and I didn’t check the Turk account’s email address ever, not […]