Construct the computer from your childhood or build an entire computer museum at home with these paper models, free to download and share.

Print, Cut, Score, Fold and Glue.

And this is the other thing about the size of the cognitive surplus we’re talking about. It’s so large that even a small change could have huge ramifications. Let’s say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That’s about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 98 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.

I think that’s going to be a big deal. Don’t you?

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A better way for a person to deal with the overwhelming complexity of the social world is to hedge their bets. By investing so much of his worth in a taxi medallion, Chow put all his eggs in one basket. So, you might say, he made himself particularly susceptible to ruin. What individuals should do instead, perhaps, is pursue a diverse range of offsetting strategies that eliminate or drastically reduce the risk of catastrophe, even under conditions of severe uncertainty.

The problem is that much of economic and social life in affluent countries is structured to require individuals to commit most of their resources towards one strategy for pursuing a flourishing life. Taking out a student loan or mortgage, or buying a taxi medallion, are all strategies that require a large, if not total, commitment of a person’s financial resources. Here, real hedging would require us to start from a place of considerable wealth, and so it isn’t a viable strategy for many. Most of us remain consigned to placing big bets in a casino where it’s effectively impossible to know the underlying odds. The precarity of this situation means that compassion, not blame, is the appropriate attitude to have towards those who end up on the losing end of these bets.

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Ahmet Altan, one of Turkey’s most skillful historical novelists, lives in solitary confinement in a cell four meters long, at Silivri Prison, Europe’s largest penal facility. In I’ll Never See This World Again, his fifteenth book, and the first he wrote from prison, Altan recalled the passing comment of a judge who held the author’s fate in his hands: “If only you had stuck to writing novels and kept your nose out of political affairs.”

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SKIP TO CONTENTMIT Technology ReviewSubscribeExpand menuMIT Technology ReviewSubscribeExpand menuTech policyIsaac Asimov Asks, “How Do People Get New Ideas?”

A 1959 Essay by Isaac Asimov on Creativity


October 20, 2014

Note from Arthur Obermayer, friend of the author:

In 1959, I worked as a scientist at Allied Research Associates in Boston. The company was an MIT spinoff that originally focused on the effects of nuclear weapons on aircraft structures. The company received a contract with the acronym GLIPAR (Guide Line Identification Program for Antimissile Research) from the Advanced Research Projects Agency to elicit the most creative approaches possible for a ballistic missile defense system. The government recognized that no matter how much was spent on improving and expanding current technology, it would remain inadequate. They wanted us and a few other contractors to think “out of the box.”

When I first became involved in the project, I suggested that Isaac Asimov, who was a good friend of mine, would be an appropriate person to participate. He expressed his willingness and came to a few meetings. He eventually decided not to continue, because he did not want to have access to any secret classified information; it would limit his freedom of expression. Before he left, however, he wrote this essay on creativity as his single formal input. This essay was never published or used beyond our small group. When I recently rediscovered it while cleaning out some old files, I recognized that its contents are as broadly relevant today as when he wrote it. It describes not only the creative process and the nature of creative people but also the kind of environment that promotes creativity.

Isaac AsimovAndy Friedman


How do people get new ideas?

Presumably, the process of creativity, whatever it is, is essentially the same in all its branches and varieties, so that the evolution of a new art form, a new gadget, a new scientific principle, all involve common factors. We are most interested in the “creation” of a new scientific principle or a new application of an old one, but we can be general here.

One way of investigating the problem is to consider the great ideas of the past and see just how they were generated. Unfortunately, the method of generation is never clear even to the “generators” themselves.

But what if the same earth-shaking idea occurred to two men, simultaneously and independently? Perhaps, the common factors involved would be illuminating. Consider the theory of evolution by natural selection, independently created by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace.

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I’ve finally seen Children of Men, on DVD, after missing it at the cinema. Watching it last week I asked myself, why is its rendering of apocalyspe so contemporary?

This post is about a few patterns I use when illustrating ideas about computers. If you are interested in using drawings to teach people about your very favorite computer topics, hopefully this will help you!

Let’s talk about how to structure cartoons and how to translate computer concepts into pictures!

Here’s chickenization: you’re a chicken farmer. There is only one company that can buy your birds, thanks to market concentration. They tell you how to design and maintain your coop. They sell you the chicks. They tell you which feed to use, how much and when.

They tell you when the lights go on and when they go off. They tell you how which vet to use, and which medicines they can use. They bind you to secrecy through nondisclosure and strip you of the right to sue through arbitration.

They experiment on you. Your barn is filled with sensors that they monitor, and they tell you to vary feed, lighting, medicine and other variables to see if your birds get bigger. They are the only buyer in your region, so they know how each farmer’s birds are thriving.

But if the “independent” farmers ever tried to compare notes, they’d be violating their nondisclosure agreements and could be sued. Farmers who complain to regulators are barred from the market.

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Last Saturday, at a prestigious match in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Palermo, polo player Adolfo Cambiaso rode six different horses to help his team win. That in itself is not remarkable: Cambiaso is widely considered the world’s best polo player. What is noteworthy is that all six horses were clones of the same mare—they’re named Cuartetera 01 through 06—and that Cambiaso did it at such a high-profile event.

Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed a cache of treasures—including more than 50 wooden sarcophagi, a funerary temple dedicated to an Old Kingdom queen and a 13-foot-long Book of the Dead scroll—at the Saqqara necropolis, a vast burial ground south of Cairo, according to a statement from the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiques.

Skiers might not know James Niehues’s name, but they have probably studied his maps. Over a decades-long career, the 75-year-old has hand-painted trail maps for over 200 ski resorts across the U.S. as well as a few in farther-flung places including British Columbia, Serbia, and New Zealand.

The so-called “Rembrandt of Snow” stumbled into his mapmaking career in 1987, shortly after moving with his wife and kids to Denver from Grand Junction, Colorado. Desperate for graphic design work, he connected with local artist Bill Brown, who in turn handed him a job making the trail map for the Winter Park resort. Thirty-four years later, Niehues has created enough pieces to sell a coffee table book (The Man Behind the Maps, published in 2019) and he’s still not done: This ski season, he created a new map for Mad River Glen in Vermont, and is already at work on a new collection of sketches of iconic American landscapes.

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Cat owners flood the internet with videos of their kitties euphorically rolling and flipping out over catnip-filled bags and toys. But exactly how catnip—and a substitute, known as silver vine—produce this feline high has long been a mystery. Now, a study suggests the key intoxicating chemicals in the plants activate cats’ opioid systems much like heroin and morphine do in people. Moreover, the study concludes that rubbing the plants protects the felines against mosquito bites.

“This study essentially has revealed a new potential mosquito repellent” by examining the “pharmaceutical knowledge” of cats, says Emory University biologist Jacobus de Roode, who did not participate in the study.

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Patricia Highsmith had a thing for snails. She admired their self-sufficiency and found it “relaxing” to watch them copulate, delighted by the impossibility of distinguishing male from female. She collected them for decades, keeping hundreds at home and scores in her handbag, which she let loose when bored at dinner parties. Her affection for snails was matched by her ambivalence towards people, whom she often found baffling and kept at a distance. When a literary agent suggested Americans didn’t buy her books because they were “too subtle” and the characters too unlikeable, Highsmith responded: “Perhaps it is because I don’t like anyone.”

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This is the story of a Wikipedia administrator gone mad with 80,000 boob pages — and an unhinged trial that would dictate the site’s NSFW future

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Human beings find comfort in certainty. We form governments, make calendars, and create organisations; and we structure our activities, strategies and plans around these constructs. These routines give us the satisfaction of knowing that, by having a plan, there’s a means of it coming to fruition.

But there’s another force, constantly at play in life, that often makes the greatest difference to our futures: the ‘unexpected’ or the ‘unforeseen’. If you think about it, you already look out for the unexpected every day, but perhaps only as a defence mechanism. For example, whenever you use a pedestrian crossing on a busy road, you look out for the unexpected driver who might race through the red light. That ‘alertness’ to, or awareness of, the unexpected is at the centre of understanding the science of (smart) luck and exploiting it to your benefit.

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Medical ethics dictate that therapeutic hope cannot veer into false hope or falsehood, which means that medical science should remain epistemologically constrained by honesty about the limits of its power and the answers it can give. Healers such as Lancaster aren’t bound by those constraints. But as Kleinman and other physicians have shown, when people fall ill, or fear falling ill, religious leaders and natural healers – who, today, are often one and the same – need not be their best recourse for the existential travails of illness and medical treatment. When reforming medicine, cost and efficacy mustn’t be the primary criteria, even if they are the most easily quantified. Instead, we should focus more on the humanity of the patients. Physicians need to be given time to listen to their patients – not necessarily because that will allow them to identify and cure illnesses more easily, but because being invited to tell your story is an essential part of the healing process. Mainstream medicine needn’t swap scientific naturalism for natural medicine’s contradictory grab bag of anti-establishment inclusivity. But it would do well to address the need for metaphysical consolation that explains why patients seek out natural medicine despite those contradictions.

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Italians lived in some of the most medically sophisticated cities and states in early modern Europe, and were remarkably health literate. Abortion was a feature of the medical landscape. Healers at all levels of the medical establishment provided women and men with materials and services to terminate pregnancies and with health care afterward. But in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this was becoming more contentious. Some theologians and moralists labeled practitioners who participated in abortions sinners and murderers. Theologically minded medical authors increasingly pronounced on the sinfulness of procured abortion, depicted it as contrary to medical ethics, and urged healers to abstain from its practice for both their own souls and the spiritual and physical well-being of their patients. While health boards did not unequivocally prohibit the medical practice of abortion, they increasingly tried to regulate it by means of legislation. Only physicians were officially permitted to induce abortions and only for reasons of medical necessity. All other healers who participated in abortions by selling drugs or letting blood from pregnant women without a physician’s prescription were threatened with fines and corporal or capital punishment should a woman die as a result of their interventions.

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Random things that are interesting.

Created on Aug 31, 2020
By @gurlic