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Category Archives: Cognition

Theory of Everything

I remember pausing the first time I read those words. They were in an astronomy book or magazine or something, and it initially struck me as a bit conceited that a bit of cosmological discussion could suddenly lay claim to an word that literally referred to everything. Might not musicians or archaeologists or some other unfamiliar professional discipline have already taken the “everything” name and applied it to one of their own big ideas? Perhaps an idea that was pervasive through their own fields but hardly relevant in others? Before I got to understanding what a ToE really embodied or even attempting the cut-down version that the text presented, I conjectured my own theory of the phrase’s meaning and came up with something that I feel, to the non-physicist, applies to everything even more than the Theory of Everything does…. more →

Seeking unhappiness

A butter croissant sits on the patio table next to a half-pint cup of caffè macchiato, both never unspoilt by neither teeth nor tongue, yet it seems that many a thinker has pondered this familiar scene before. The morning’s brisk rays illuminate grooved textures on the French pastry: layered butter and folded dough, sugar, milk, and an all-around exemplary delight. Adjacent to it, liquified ejecta from the bowels of our dicotyledonous subjugators are an equally tempting t(h)reat, not only for their chemical potency and social connotations, but also for their distinctive bitterness. The cult of misery is nothing new to those who have grown to enjoy herbal tea and such foods as bitter melon. Okakura Kakuzō’s essay on teaism in Japanese culture explores how tea and a related set of other foods and drink are important in maintaining perspective of… more →

On happiness and remembering things

It’s the end of spring break already. I was on BearFacts yesterday researching about class registration when it occurred to me that they were telling me about picking college courses and planning out a schedule for the first time for courses that will be taught by strangers hundreds of miles away. By that time, everything will have changed and everyone will have moved away. Most of my spring break I spent shut-in cramming physics because of my ridiculously short time frame, so I haven’t really seen anyone for a week now. For brief periods, I could almost pretend that everything and everyone outside of my textbook and notes didn’t exist, as if the big change had already happened. Right then and there, I realized that it’d be no different were I studying three hundred miles north in a smaller room… more →

Direct Processing

I like to set aside time at least once a week to work on something creative, computer stuff excluded. It’s my arts and crafts time. I can pick something from pinterest to mimic or start another journal or make cards for certain holidays. It’s not about creating something that I can show off or learning a skill. Instead, the time is a sort of mental reset, kind of like meditation or napping. See, when you first learn a skill, it takes a lot of conscious effort. You try to dissect the technique and compartmentalize each of the motions until you master each one separately. This is a low degree of competency: you can do it, but it’s mentally taxing. After a while, the process becomes repetitive and second-hand, and you start losing the conscious component. The sensory perception information starts… more →

Heuristics in society

The world around us is prohibitively-complex to fully discern. This fact is undebatable: there are examples everywhere. To compensate, human beings have to form generalizations, or heuristics, about decision-making. They are mental shortcuts that we use every day, without which we would not be able to keep up with demanding, fast-paced modern society. Historically, this ability to make quick unconscious judgments had been useful when aggressive reactions and the fight-or-flight response were necessary to outrun predators, to stretch the human’s physical ability to cope in times of stress. But in a protective, dominating, first-world country, heuristics play a different role. When you investigate the cause of dispute and argument, it eventually narrows down to the fact that someone is wrong. Either there is not enough information available to reach an agreement, or cognitive biases overwhelm sense and reason1. When we use… more →

The limits of mankind’s knowledge

It concerns me how often that we are discussing in ToK when somebody precludes an argument with some nonsense conjecture that goes along the lines of nobody knows why we do those things, we just do them. It is especially convenient with topics like human behaviors and black holes and morality, because you can dismiss things that you don’t understand. But we can explain those things with science. See, there’s a difference between knowing how to calculate the Schwarzschild radius and being aware that somewhere in the past, physicists have formed a working theory for black holes. On the opposite side, some areas of science are not as developed as they seem to be. One of the goals of a scientific education is to enable you to see through the magic. I ask people about this often. How can we know… more →

Neo-optimism

The principle of humanity, states that when interpreting another speaker we must assume that his or her beliefs and desires are connected to each other and to reality in some way, and attribute to him or her “the propositional attitudes one supposes one would have oneself in those circumstances” (Daniel Dennett, “Mid-Term Examination,” in The Intentional Stance, p. 343). [From Wikipedia on the Principle of Humanity.] It may be hard to imagine now, but if you ever find yourself with a distressing abundance of free time, reading about cognitive science and philosophy on Wikipedia will eat it right up. If there is any philosophical thought, more true than the Principle of Humanity1, then I haven’t discovered it yet. I’ll keep this short. Remember the Great Gatsby? “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in… more →

The problem of bounded rationality

Actually, the market place, in aggregate, has a long a glorious history of celebrating really mediocre crap technology that is an unfortunate compromise between cheap and “good enough”. In short, encouraging and then trusting people to “spend their money on better things” is a sure fire recipe to be subjected to crappy technology. [On the ubiquity of social networking in inappropriate places.] Imagine you’re the chief of staff on the Infrastructural and Technological Development team in your post-apocalyptic group of refugee zombie-survivors. Before you can start building anything, there’s a few things you need to decide upon. Let’s say you’ve still got a reasonable tool to measure the different quantities of both the metric and imperial system of measurements. Also, you’ve retained massive libraries of knowledge, from the details of the RoHS directive, to alternative economic theory, to RFC specifications for… more →

On the number of orders for water

I was at New Capital last night with my family, and Zaneta was about to order some water. I’m okay with tea, because I just don’t like cold drinks with Chinese food. But if everyone was getting a water, I wouldn’t bother raising my opinion. Then I noticed: I could prevent just one number. I could prevent an order of 3 waters, because the plan that I had formed in my head ensured that an order of 3 would be unreasonable1. What if decisions were made this way? Let’s say there is a governing council of some 79 men2. A resolution is introduced to the council, and groups of councilmen deliberate. Each man has his own special interests, and no one can come up with a compromise that suits them all. They amend the resolution multiple times and end up with 7… more →

Consumer surplus and economic efficiency

If you’re reading this, it must mean that everything turned out correctly1. I just migrated RogerHub to a new webhost, for the next two years. Why? Because competition. Fuck yeah. Not many things in this life tend to just keep getting better and better. How it feels to be on the other side of competition, you must know already. Isn’t it great? The simple logic that better things succeed and crap fails. Let’s see what happens. The domain transfer succeeded. The nameserver updates propagated to all hosts, and the DNS records are pointing to this new server. Great! ↩