Saturday, December 10

Are scientific theories really better when they are simpler? – Elliott Sober | Aeon Essays

Given that you're doing logic, I think you will appreciate this essay. 
Generally making thing simpler is better. But then we also have to keep an eye out on complexity. Economics frequently comes up with intellectually clean theories and with major assumptions to avoid contaminating the model with the messy thing that is real life. And when you have central banks and commercial banks and governments adopting public policy because of these simplistic models, the impact felt on the people who have been assumed out is huge. For example, most models assume that people are rational. They aren't. And as we have seen, their behaviours can turn normally and commonly held opinions and perspectives upside down. That causes severe dislocations. 
So yes simple is better but sometimes simple can be dangerous as well. 

Are scientific theories really better when they are simpler? – Elliott Sober | Aeon Essays
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Two of Barcelona's architectural masterpieces are as different as different could be. The Sagrada Família, designed by Antoni Gaudí, is only a few miles from the German Pavilion, built by Mies van der Rohe. Gaudí's church is flamboyant and complex. Mies's pavilion is tranquil and simple. Mies, the apostle of minimalist architecture, used the slogan 'less is more' to express what he was after. Gaudí never said 'more is more', but his buildings suggest that this is what he had in mind.
One reaction to the contrast between Mies and Gaudí is to choose sides based on a conviction concerning what all art should be like. If all art should be simple or if all art should be complex, the choice is clear. However, both of these norms seem absurd. Isn't it obvious that some estimable art is simple and some is complex? True, there might be extremes that are beyond the pale; we are alienated by art that is far too complex and bored by art that is far too simple. However, between these two extremes there is a vast space of possibilities. Different artists have had different goals. Artists are not in the business of trying to discover the uniquely correct degree of complexity that all artworks should have. There is no such timeless ideal.
Science is different, at least according to many scientists. Albert Einstein spoke for many when he said that 'it can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience'. The search for simple theories, then, is a requirement of the scientific enterprise. When theories get too complex, scientists reach for Ockham's Razor, the principle of parsimony, to do the trimming. This principle says that a theory that postulates fewer entities, processes or causes is better than a theory that postulates more, so long as the simpler theory is compatible with what we observe. But what does 'better' mean? It is obvious that simple theories can be beautiful and easy to understand, remember and test. The hard problem is to explain why the fact that one theory is simpler than another tells you anything about the way the world is.
One of the most famous scientific endorsements of Ockham's Razor can be found in Isaac Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), where he states four 'Rules of Reasoning'. Here are the first two:
Rule I. No more causes of natural things should be admitted than are both true and sufficient to explain their phenomena. As the philosophers say: nature does nothing in vain, and more causes are in vain when fewer suffice. For nature is simple and does not indulge in the luxury of superfluous causes.
Rule II. Therefore, the causes assigned to natural effects of the same kind must be, so far as possible, the same. Examples are the cause of respiration in man and beast, or of the falling of stones in Europe and America, or of the light of a kitchen fire and the Sun, or of the reflection of light on our Earth and the planets.
Newton doesn't do much to justify these rules, but in an unpublished commentary on the book of Revelations, he says more. Here is one of his 'Rules for methodising/construing the Apocalypse':
To choose those constructions which without straining reduce things to the greatest simplicity. The reason of this is… [that] truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things. It is the perfection of God's works that they are all done with the greatest simplicity. He is the God of order and not of confusion. And therefore as they that would understand the frame of the world must endeavour to reduce their knowledge to all possible simplicity, so it must be in seeking to understand these visions…

Friday, December 9

Browned Off and Bloody-Minded: The British Soldier Goes to War 1939-1945 | Reviews in History

This was a good review son. I don't think you actually need to read the book although I've got it on my wish list. So why am I sending this to you? 
It's because you'll become a manager soon. And manage people. It's one of the most difficult tasks son and not something that one can learn easily. General Adam is a name you don't recall or remember that easily. But his job as an adjutant general was easily as important as that of Monty. All the bravery in the world is useless if the arms and ammo and men and food doesn't arrive in the front. People look down on these roles with disdain. I've told you so many times that ordinary generals study tactics. Great generals study logistics. 
And when you're looking to achieve something, you need to think of logistics. You need men, you need money, you need support, you need food, you need intelligence and information. You need all this to get to achieve your objectives. 
But you can't have everything. You go to war with the army you have, not the army you want. You had your chance to build your army and then if you did well, then you're good. If not, then see what happened to us during the war, initially we were hammered across the world. 
Remember that fact son, look after your people. Very important. And they will know when you're a manager who looks after them. 

Browned Off and Bloody-Minded: The British Soldier Goes to War 1939-1945 | Reviews in History
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Although it is now a full 70 years since the close of the Second World War, there is little sign of a decline in either academic or public interest in the history of the war. In fact, there seems to have emerged a growing interest in the experiences not of those who held commands or public office, but rather of those who served and fought as ordinary soldiers and sailors. This interest is particularly keen in the United Kingdom and the United States, two nations whose forces have been, and continue to be, deployed in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is not surprising that in Britain and America there exists such interest in how and why soldiers fight, or fought. Those studies which have appeared in the last 15 years or so have not been hagiographical works, at least for the most part, but have examined the complicated experiences of those who went into battle and of the ways in which nation-states organized and trained the large numbers required for such a massive military effort. On the British side, these include studies by, among others, David French, Jonathan Fennell, Clive Emsley and (very recently) Yasmin Khan. For American troops, particularly those who passed through the UK before June, 1944, David Reynolds's account of the 'occupation of Britain' is unmatched.

Thursday, December 8

Private prisons are shrouded in secrecy. I took a job as a guard to get inside—then things got crazy

This was a very long article son and was quite painful to read. Quite painful. 
It's a world that's foreign to you and I. A place of criminals and mentally challenged people. Guarded by people who have a terribly tough job and aren't paid much at all. Plus this prison is private. Not public. It's not easy to read but it's worthwhile to ponder. 
What is our society going to be like? When criminals are treated like this? Will they come out and be integrated back in the society or not? Based upon the current trends and practises, the answer is no. One may think that it's ok - we are talking criminals but with no rehabilitation, the societal cost is ginormous not to mention the hit on our morality. 
No easy answers either. None. Would you say that a science fiction like future like inmates being hooked up to tv and food whilst being brainwashed and sedated is good? No. 
very difficult to think how to fix these things. 



Private prisons are shrouded in secrecy. I took a job as a guard to get inside—then things got crazy
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  • Chapter 1
    "Inmates Run This Bitch"
  • s

Chapter 1: "Inmates Run This Bitch"

Have you ever had a riot?" I ask a recruiter from a prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
"The last riot we had was two years ago," he says over the phone.
"Yeah, but that was with the Puerto Ricans!" says a woman's voice, cutting in. "We got rid of them."
"When can you start?" the man asks.
I tell him I need to think it over.
I take a breath. Am I really going to become a prison guard? Now that it might actually happen, it feels scary and a bit extreme.

Tuesday, December 6

4 Hans Christian Andersen Stories That Are Way Stranger Than You Think

I love fairy tales. I think they do make life simple and perhaps that's why kids love them as well. Even adults. Harking back to a simpler time when decisions were simple. Life was black and white. And in many ways that's what we should aim for. 
But this article made me think. What we took for granted, the actual story was more complicated. It's like why I hate Robin Hood while admiring him at the same time. Confusing? Yes. Because I hate him for being a robber and thief. But at the same time, I admire him for being a revolutionary and a hero and a leader and courage and and and. 
Interesting back story on anderson as well in this story. 

4 Hans Christian Andersen Stories That Are Way Stranger Than You Think
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Hans Christian Andersen is a strange and fascinating figure who wrote a great many stories for children. His name is synonymous with love, splendor, and the wonderment of childhood. His own childhood was less than perfect, existing in deep poverty as the child of an illiterate washerwoman. He left his first life at 14 to find a new one with a wealthy family. He spun this fortune into a career in the arts, finding his mark with children's stories in 1835. From there he remained a servant to the child's ear, and his work has spawned retellings, both comical and romantic, for generations since.
Disney has picked up more than a few of his tales, and others have been animated, performed, retold, and embraced as fun and moving stories. However a romp within the actual original text of many of them reveal a certain level of sadness, despair, ugliness, and outright weirdness that we tend to overlook when speaking the name Andersen. Let's take a closer look at a few that are particularly famous and particularly ghastly when we take off our rose-colored glasses, put on our spectacles, and peer really close.


4. The Princess and the Pea

Pea-1.jpgAuthenticity, rather than true love, is the focus of this old tale. It has an element of the glass slipper narrative from Cinderella. There are those who are, and those who are not, and the only way to tell is with a simple test, in this case a pea. The prince in this story seeks not love, but a "true princess," and though there are those who hold the title, he finds something "not right" about each of them. The story doesn't elaborate or define what is lacking, but it does keep him a bachelor until a rain-soaked woman shows up at his doorstep in the middle of the night seeking a place to sleep and has only her word to claim that she is a "true princess."
The queen, the prince's mother, has her doubts, but creates a fool-proof test. She places a single pea under the mattress of her guest. Not satisfied with this, she then piles twenty mattresses on top of the single mattress and then offers the bed to the woman claiming royal blood. In the morning the princess complains that she didn't sleep a wink and that her body feels bruised and battered after sleeping on such an uncomfortable mattress all night. The prince and queen rejoice as only a "true princess" would have a skin and body so sensitive that she would feel a tiny pea under so many mattresses. She and he are married and the story boasts that the pea was placed in a museum and can be seen today, so this is a "true story."
This tale and the seeming lesson behind it have been celebrated in children's books and plays for years and the world has accepted, without question, this odd and nonsensical assertion that physical sensitivity is a true mark of royalty. After reading the original, there might be readers who express more concern than acceptance with this supposed royal affliction. If a pea under 21 mattresses causes her body to be black and blue, what is the rest of her day like? Surely the stones in the street just on the other side of her shoe must rival the pain felt by the poor mermaid! How does she sit, stand, ride horses, or simply get through life? And why is physical sensitivity a positive? Wouldn't constant skin irritation and pain be a detriment to the potential royal duties? The odder thing is that no other information about those the prince deemed "not right" and this fitful sleeper are shared. The other women are not said to be ill-tempered, rude, self-obsessed, unattractive, selfish, or any other kind of "not right." It just seems to be a gut feeling that is only satisfied by proof through the inability to sleep on top of a pea.
There is also the curious house-guest arrangement of this tale. A princess arrives in the middle of the night and accepts, without question, the task of sleeping on a stack of mattresses. This does not bother her, and she gladly climbs a ladder (one must assume) to sleep on this tower of bedding. In the morning, rather than being appreciative, she complains and focuses on the one, tiny, element of her visit that was unsatisfactory. A strange sort of hospitality, a very strange response, and from this we are to nod in agreement that "Yep, this is royalty alright."
There may be an argument here that Andersen may have not been celebrating how other-worldly and deeply sensitive royalty is, but pointing readers towards the opposite conclusion. To assume that royal figures feel and respond in a different way than the rest of us do; that they are too sensitive and delicate for normal life, and that this is why they do not have to work at the same level or deal with the same hardships, is as ridiculous as choosing a wife based on her lack of sleep after sleeping on a pea (which, by the way, would clearly be smashed by the weight of even a pillow, so there's that also).

Monday, December 5

Surround Yourself with People Who Hold You to a Higher Standard than You Hold Yourself – The Mission – Medium


I liked this article. Really liked it. Some of the quotes are brilliant. You're the average of the 5 closest people that you have. Or best you have people around you who hold you to a higher standard than you hold yourself.

If you surround yourself with people who are of a lower standard setting then you will go down to their level. Always kids. Always keep on trying to improve yourself. And one way is to be pushed by others. In a variety of ways. In travel. In reading. In skills. In playing football. In whatever activity.

They don't need to be physically present. They could be ideals or somebody you've read about. Somebody who you look up to.

Read the article. Very helpful :)