Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa. Since my new baby boy has arrived I’ve had lot of interesting drafts, but not enough time to clean them up and get them live for you. I am hoping in the next week once I’ve caught up on some of the major Panda Rose projects I’m elbow deep in, that I will be able to find an hour or two and get them out.
Lots of interesting topics to come though. For example:
“Hope is not Optimism”
The Boston bombing, panopticon, police and Reddit.
Reflections on 3d printing, and what needs to be done to break through that glass ceiling
The hidden propaganda of popular government programs (laws)
The false assumption of progress
Some interesting graphs and progress on the n = ab = (x-y)(x+y)
Some progress on what Average Mutual Information is, and why it may actually be a useful measure of ontology.
As you can see, just because I’m not publishing, doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot coming down the pipeline. Hopefully I will be able to get some of the more timely ones out for everyone in the coming weeks.
I have this terrifically frustrating habit — I always want things to be entirely cleaned up and done well. I’m unusually satisfied when I believe I’ve completed something well, cleaning a room is one of the tasks that works best for me. However, finishing a contract that I’m pleased with the outcome of is just as satisfying.
This trait comes out in negative ways as well.
I hate seeing food in the cupboards. It just seems to be taking up room and you can’t just clean the cupboards with it there. So, when I get frustrated with my lack of progress elsewhere, I find myself either eating food or throwing out food which has gone bad from the fridge simply because it is there. It took me a long time to figure this strange habit out, and it really actually explains the swings I have in weight. When I’m getting a lot done, my weight goes down dramatically, when I find myself struggling to get things done, it goes up. I don’t have an eating problem as much as a ‘need to feel like I’m accomplishing something’ problem.
In other circumstances, it has taken away from the joy I see everyone else have at large pomp and circumstance celebrations. To be honest, the day I graduated from Waterloo was probably one of the more sad days I can remember. Not because I didn’t feel proud that I made it, but rather because I didn’t feel like I had completed everything I wanted to. There were still courses in the C&O program I wanted to take, there was still things left to be learned.
I was successful because I had accomplished what was needed to pass. That wasn’t what was driving me though. I wanted to collect all the credits, I wanted to get much higher marks than I got. I didn’t feel like I’d done what I’d come to do. Sadly, I didn’t feel that accomplished.
This has also combined with another personality trait of mine which Ze Frank calls the FILDI (F*ck it, let’s do it.) In general, I cannot stand waiting on the sidelines of anything. If I see a book in a field of science or theology, I generally want to read it – no filter, I mean anything. I’ve read advanced books in post modern political science and books on how to write comedy for children. I bought them and read them in the hopes that I would have some interesting thought that I could expand upon and create something actually new, interesting or helpful.
I will note that people who recognized this habit in me have abused my friendship around it. Thankfully, over time I’ve recognized those people quicker and I address the matter much sooner than I used to.
I always reflect that perhaps in an earlier age, this could have been a really amazingly useful trait. At one point it was actually possible for a person to know a significant majority of human knowledge. With that, there was the possibility I could have a new and unique thought that pushed forward the boundaries of our knowledge, or created a new machine that improved all of our lives.
Yet, this FILDI combined with the “Complete all the things!” is more of a curse in the modern age. As anyone who has tried to be a renaissance man will tell you though, a jack of all trades is a master of none and you succeed in modern society by drilling down in one subject and being indispensable for that one topic. Something, I’ve tried to do, but haven’t fully succeeded. I get too distracted by too many subjects to get deep enough to create. At least, I always feel when I have a unique idea I quickly discover someone else has beat me to it. How do you find out if an idea has already been discovered, you read books and papers, and then you hit this frustrating realization: There is not enough time.
One day I stared at my massive library and worked out that to read everything in the library at the rate of 1 book per week would require four lifetimes and that would miss the entire point of why I owned a lot of the books. I also deduced that on average most books drove me to wanting to read more primary source material, so regardless of what I did, I always ended up behind.
I bought them because I wanted to create, not because I wanted to absorb. I wanted them to know what was at the edge of their fields so I could, in theory, create something new and interesting. Instead I kept on jumping onto the Red Queen’s treadmill. I had to run as fast as I could to stand still.
I haven’t honestly found a way around this habit. However, I recognize it, and I work on it by targeting specific tasks and trying to throw out ones that I acknowledge I cannot complete successfully. This has involved me throwing out entire baseball card collections, large chunks of my library, and old blogs (anyone remember 1337hax0r?). I would stop when I eventually realized the goals I desired behind them were simply not achievable with the effort/capital/support I had available to put into them.
What to do next? Well, at least now I know my order of things in importance. Something that was forced on me in stark terms recently. As I try to follow it, with God’s help, I’ll figure out some balance.
Perhaps, just perhaps, I’ll get something big completed in the fashion I want.
Academia has a fascinating issue I’ve been pondering about recently. In essence, the fact that almost all journals have a clear and obvious bias towards positive results, there is almost a guaranteed texas sharpshooter fallacy that will occur over time when many many papers are written.
The Texas sharpshooter fallacy often arises when a person has a large amount of data at their disposal, but only focuses on a small subset of that data. Random chance may give all the elements in that subset some kind of common property (or pair of common properties, when arguing for correlation). If the person fails to account for the likelihood of finding some subset in the large data with some common property strictly by chance alone, that person is likely committing a Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.
Now, I’m not entirely sure if this is the best fallacy to use, but basically it’s based around the idea that given a million monkeys and an infinite amount of time, someone will eventually write Shakespeare. Now, if we ignore all of the negative results, and all of the gibberish and only publish once someone writes Shakespeare, it would seem, at times, as if a monkey left to a certain type of typewriter is more inclined to write Shakespeare.
Don’t get me wrong though, science is explicitly built around the idea that these points would be made public and then eventually proven false by repeated experiments by other individuals. However, with the modern media hyping everything the moment it is published and an overconfidence on anything that is “science” or “published” we have a big problem on our hands.
Yes, evolution is a fact, that’s been around long enough and there is no credible theory that challenges it that I’m willing to say that. In the same sense that I am wiling to say that Maxwell’s Laws are facts and the like.
However, 90% of the new science you keep hearing about… Is probably wrong. Especially psychology and medical science has this flaw (with the sheer number of papers and the need to publish or perish, how could it not.) Yet, we keep going back to that trough. It was published in a peer-reviewed journal, so it must be true, right? The media hypes that red wine is good for you, bad for you, indifferent…
Here’s my theory on this whole matter, not peer-reviewed or published, but at least a functional heuristic. Give it 20 years, or 40 years. Let people challenge the results and see if they actually apply. I wish we could teach people how science (and to be honest any knowledge development) really works. You have an idea, it seems to work for you. You try to figure out why and reproduce it so you can continue to enjoy the benefits. You develop something that seems to work and is reproducable, then you tell people and they try it out.
And 9 times out of 10 they discover that you weren’t quite right.
However, if the idea continues to generate positive results for you, you ignore them and keep using it. If they are right and it starts to fail, you go back and you try again.
To believe that new science is right simply because it’s published is to be as dogmatic as to believe the a religious book is correct simply because someone told you so. Journals (even good journals) are not always right.