The Repugnant Conclusion is an implication of some approaches to population ethics. It states, in Derek Parfit’s original formulation,

For any possible population of at least ten billion people, all with a very high quality of life, there must be some much larger imaginable population whose existence, if other things are equal, would be better, even though its members have lives that are barely worth living. (Parfit 1984: 388)

This conclusion has been the subject of several formal proofs of incompatibility in the literature (Ng 1989; Arrhenius 2000, forthcoming) and has been an enduring focus of population ethics.

The Repugnant Conclusion served an important purpose in catalyzing and inspiring the pioneering stage of population ethics research. We believe, however, that the Repugnant Conclusion now receives too much focus. Avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion should no longer be the central goal driving population ethics research, despite its importance to the fundamental accomplishments of the existing literature.

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Passion is not “a universally powerful cornerstone of achievement,” the researchers found, and the culture a person grew up in makes a big difference. That means universities and companies that rely on passion in candidates are missing out on talent, especially applicants from low-income, non-white, immigrant communities.

The study, published in March in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that passion—measured as felt interest, enjoyment, and efficacy—is a much stronger predictor of achievement in certain societies than others.

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Not so long ago, at the start of 2007, the world’s population lived with a vivid technological divide. Half had a mobile phone: three billion people. Not quite a quarter used the internet. The phones were for talking. The internet required a computer. Wheelers and dealers—lawyers, agents, politicos—had BlackBerrys for emails, which they pecked on Lilliputian keyboards. But otherwise being online was a physically static condition. One surfed sitting still. The internet of the 2000s was an indoor child, happiest on the couch or behind a desk.

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If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard of Peter Thiel, and if you’ve heard of Peter Thiel you surely have opinions. You might see him as a prolific venture capitalist, a savvy political strategist, and a visionary investor in Facebook, SpaceX, Palantir, etc. You might think he’s the devil incarnate for his role supporting the Trump transition, his avowed distaste for popular democracy, and his bald profiteering off of invasive tracking technologies.

I’m not here to weigh in on whether Peter Thiel is a goody or a baddy. But I do have some thoughts on the nature of his famous “turn” from outspoken libertarian to Trump-adjacent nationalist over the past half-decade. So, at the risk of giving him more credit as a political thinker than he deserves, here goes. 

Thiel was recently in the news because of some statements he made about how Bitcoin is being bought and sold. While claiming to be pro-cryptocurrency— that’s money produced and distributed ostensibly outside the clutches of the state—he portrayed the most important such currency as a potential threat to American security.

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Let us start with an assumption that most of us already suspect to be true: that civilization will not survive more than a few centuries into the future. If that sad assertion be true, then what will the earth look like in the far future? There was a television show some years ago entitled “Life After People”. It did a good job of showing how the artifacts of civilization would decay, erode, disintegrate, and disappear. What’s surprising is that most of the stuff won’t last more than a few centuries. Our big cities, freeways, bridges, skyscrapers, and so forth will be untraceable within a millenium of the collapse of civilization. What will survive for longer?

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In October of 1973, Bruce Severy — a 26-year-old English teacher at Drake High School, North Dakota — decided to use Kurt Vonnegut‘s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, as a teaching aid in his classroom. The next month, on November 7th, the head of the school board, Charles McCarthy, demanded that all 32 copies be burned in the school’s furnace as a result of its “obscene language.” Other books soon met with the same fate. On the 16th of November, Kurt Vonnegut sent McCarthy the following letter. He didn’t receive a reply.

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The Journal of Controversial Ideas offers a forum for careful, rigorous, unpolemical discussion of issues that are widely considered controversial, in the sense that certain views about them might be regarded by many people as morally, socially, or ideologically objectionable or offensive. The journal offers authors the option to publish their articles under a pseudonym, in order to protect themselves from threats to their careers or physical safety.  We hope that this will also encourage readers to attend to the arguments and evidence in an essay rather than to who wrote it. Pseudonymous authors may choose to claim the authorship of their work at a later time, or to reveal it only to selected people (such as employers or prospective employers), or to keep their identity undisclosed indefinitely. Standard submissions using the authors’ actual names are also encouraged.

We welcome submissions in all areas of academic research insofar as the topics discussed are relevant to society at large.

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I found a class of objects that change the appearances when they are reflected in a mirror. Of course, the shape of an object should not change even if it is reflected in a mirror. So the change of the appearance is a kind of optical illusion.

This illusion is evoked by cylindrical surfaces.

As a veteran sports journalist, Scott Michaux has attended Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA tournaments, and just about every golf tournament under the sun. “The Masters is the best presented event in the history of sports,” he says. “You can’t argue that.”

The Masters is one of the four major professional golf championships, where the world’s top golfers converge on Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, to compete for the coveted Green Jacket (and, this year, a cool $11.5 million). What sets the Masters apart, however, is a behind-the-scenes devotion to aesthetic perfection that evokes from its regular patrons a near-religious fervor.

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As we look forward to the re-opening of non-essential retail outlets in England, we’d like to share a book about nineteenth-century London shops.  Nathaniel Whittock’s On the construction and decoration of the shop fronts of London published in 1840 has illustrated descriptions of a variety of businesses and is available as a digital item.

The new Mayor of the city of Rome, Ignazio Marino, just announced his intention to destroy one of the city’s central roads, the Via dei Fori Imperiali, and turn the area around the old Roman Forum into the world’s largest archaeological park.  Reactions have ranged from commuters’ groans to declarations from classicists that this single act proves the nobility of the human species.

Forty-five thousand years ago, some of the first modern humans to call Europe home lived in and around Bulgaria’s Bacho Kiro Cave. They created adornments, like beads and pendants of cave bear teeth. They fashioned stone and bone tools and colored them with red ochre. They hunted, butchered and feasted on local animals. Artifacts of this lifestyle were left scattered in the cave, but these ancient humans left little evidence of themselves. Just a single tooth and a few tiny bits of bone survived to the present day. Yet those fragments contained enough genetic material that scientists have now recreated some of the humans’ stories, revealing surprising information about both their ancestors and their descendants.

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Apr 10

By Augusta Genealogical Society Posted Mar 16, 2019 at 6:56 PM Updated Mar 16, 2019 at 6:56 PM

A reader asked, “How did 11 calendar days disappear in 1752?”

People living in Britain, America and other English colonies went to sleep on the night of Sept. 2, 1752, and when they woke up the next morning it was Sept. 14, 1752. Because the people thought the government was trying to cheat them out of 11 days of their lives, there were riots in villages. Eleven days (Sept. 3-13) were cut from the calendar, deleting them forever. These days simply never existed – no births, no marriages, no deaths.

This was very confusing by itself, but added to this change was that New Year moved from March 25 to Jan. 1. Think how confusing this must have been to people used to thinking about a year running from March 25 to March 24, now they had to get used to the year running from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. Imagine – a person could have been married on April 26, 1710 and died on Feb 2, 1710.

This is a problem that has also confounded genealogists for many years.

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School closures in the last year have led to serious learning losses, with primary-age school pupils making virtually no progress studying at home, according to a new study by researchers at Oxford’s Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, published in Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Learning losses were particularly pronounced in families with low levels of education.

The findings come from data gathered in the Netherlands, where schools closed for eight weeks in the first lockdown. The researchers believe the findings are applicable to the UK and elsewhere.

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Fear is natural and healthy. It can help us respond to danger more quickly or avoid a dangerous situation altogether. It can also cause us to worry about the wrong things, especially when it comes to estimating our level of risk.

If we overestimate our risk in one area, it can lead to anxiety and interfere with carrying out our normal daily routine. Ironically, it also leads us to underestimate real risks that can injure or kill us.

For many scientists, challenging the idea that SARS-CoV-2 has natural origins is seen as career suicide. But a vocal few say it shouldn’t be disregarded or lumped in with conspiracy theories.

Klaus Schwab is the founder and current chairman of the World Economic Forum and author, with economist Thierry Malleret, of 2020’s enormously controversial book Covid-19: The Great Reset. The World Economic Forum sponsors an annual conference in Switzerland, popularly known as Davos, an invitation-only event attended by industrial and governmental leaders from around the world. In the words of political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, the attendees of this forum are “Davos Men,” a wealthy global elite who “have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations.”

Now, Huntington was a Harvard Man and no right-wing conspiracy theorist, but this description is not far removed from the conclusions of a popular conspiracy fantasy that asserts—among many, many things—that the world is being taken over by global elites toiling against our interests under the banner of Schwab’s Great Reset. The claims get woollier from there: the Great Reset has also let loose Covid-19 in order to create conditions that would allow them to take control of world politics and economics, replace national currencies with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, instate a communist dictatorship (aka the New World Order), and mandate a Covid vaccine containing a GPS tracker designed to provide universal police surveillance. In some versions of this theory, Donald Trump is the only leader keeping all this from happening.

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We want to be able to peacefully start a new country for the same reason we want a bare plot of earth, a blank sheet of paper, an empty text buffer, a fresh startup, or a clean slate. Because we want to build something new without historical constraint.


Random things that are interesting.

Created on Aug 31, 2020
By @gurlic