Thinking Like An Algorithm

The Ghost of Cognition Past, or Thinking Like An Algorithm

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Thought for the day

“We can’t save the intellectual, any more than the biological environment by teaching the ignorant to protest. We can do so, however, by teaching them to love: the books, the music; the birds, and all Creation.” — Summer Reading, by David Warren

Hunger strike at Yale?

The graduate students at Yale are on a hunger strike: they won’t eat until they get hungry. On the one hand, that’s not a bad habit to form. On the other hand, what a bunch of wimps.

It reminds me of the (no doubt embellished) story of the Irish monks back in the day (800 AD?) who competed in advanced asceticism. The monks on the hill announced they’d fast for so many days. The monks in the valley said they’d fast for one day longer than their brothers up on the hill. One group sent a provocateur over the the other to say the brothers had broken their fast early. So the hungry monks broke their fast. Then the provocateur let it be known they hadn’t really broken their fast, and so had won.

Meanwhile, the Yale College Republicans had a barbeque.

One might say Yale isn’t making their graduate students miserable; the graduate students are making Yale miserable. But nobody’s really all that miserable, just irritable and a bit peckish, except for the Republicans.

Nuh uh! Nuh uh nuh uh nuh uh! Racist! Nuh uh!

“As a result of these disparate admissions standards, many students spend four years in a social environment where race conveys useful information about the academic capacity of their peers.” — Hard Truths About Race on Campus, by Jonathan Haidt and Lee Jussim

Clearly what’s needed is a generously funded graduate center to support a program to give students the tools to successfully ignore this kind of “information.”

UPDATE 19 May 2016: Gist: college policies to promote Diversity cause the racism they seek to eliminate.

Student grievances


Students at Oberlin College don’t like the food
. But they can’t just not like the food, because it’s 2015; the food can’t just be not very good; it must be wrong and wicked; violent and oppressive; at the very least, a micro-aggression. Kids today, right? When I was a student, the food was a macro-aggression, and we ate it anyway, because there wasn’t anything else, unless you had money.* Then after dinner we went out and protested — not for ice cream, but for Natan Sharansky. But I digress.

The students at Oberlin find their food culturally appropriative, inauthentic, and racist. They want, no kidding, fried chicken every Sunday. I think the demand for fried chicken is evidence that not everyone at Oberlin is a complete idiot.

“What should we ask for?”

“Come on, guys, this it nuts. The rice for the sushi is undercooked? Really?”

“Yes, Carl, we know, but it’s what all the popular kids are doing. Think of it as an opportunity. What should we ask for? How about a big chicken dinner every Sunday?”

“Sure, whatever; to the barricades! No passaran! For the chicken! Anyway, I’ve got finals to study for.”

“So, all in favor of demanding chicken on Sundays?”

At least maybe someone gets a chicken dinner out of it.

*Really, the food in the dining hall was fine, though a little bland and monotonous. After I moved out of the residnece hall into an apartment the food got a good deal worse.

The clock

This Is Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock.” The boy didn’t build a clock, he took a clock apart, wired it up, and then put it in a box. There is no way a reasonable person would think this was merely an innocent electronics project.

UPDATE 19 September 2015: Says Jerry Pournelle, “There was no reason to handcuff him, but we had that in Los Angeles 20 years ago: officers had discretion on handcuffing people, and got pummeled because they handcuffed more Blacks and Latinos than White, and the Department took the discretion away: now everybody gets handcuffed, even though the cops find it absurd in many cases. On the other hand, there are plenty of cases where it’s a wise precaution, so if it’s handcuff everyone or handcuff no one, it has to be everyone, absurdities or not. I suspect it’s that way in Texas, too. One of the joys of diversity.”

Multiple choice

Of 13-year-olds: “Geography scores are even worse. Most did not understand time zones, and a quarter thought Canada was a dictatorship,” seen here.

They don’t really think Canada is a dictatorship, any more than they think Canada is a species of Acipenseridae. It was probably a multiple choice question, with one of the choices “dictatorship.” Some number filled in that bubble, for whatever reason – because it was A, or because they were playing connect-the-dots, or because “dictator” is a funny work. Some, if asked “what is Canada’s form of government?” would have said “It’s a dictatorship.” But then, if a multiple choice question asked seventh graders “what’s a dictatorship?” and one of the choices was “an aircraft carrier,” some would have said a dictatorship was an aircraft carrier.