A Modicum of Thought

a weekly pursuit of depth of thought

Archives (page 2 of 3)

I Feel, Therefore I am Not

First to set some context, I have been in exploring for the better part of the past year three large influencing mindsets on the subject of rational reasoning versus emotional intuition, and subconscious versus conscious thought. These mindsets are exemplified by their source readings:

  1. David BrooksThe Social Animal, which argues that the emotional mind is far more essential and active in the day to day (see also The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail by Jonathan Haidt)
  2. Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Harry Potter and The Methods of Rationality (aka HPMOR), which emphasizes the need for focused purely-rational reasoning, performed using Bayesian principles to arrive at rational thought, overcoming the limitations of the irrational mind.
  3. Daniel Kahneman‘s Thinking Fast And Slow –  Which argues that the brain’s desire for consistency (e.g. Caldiani‘s Consistency in Influence) overwhelms emotion and undermines the argument that the brain is even biologically capable of rational thought in the first place. In this bucket, I also throw in the incredible Phantoms in the Brain by Ramachandran – who got at these issues from a neuroscientific perspective 20 years ago.
Read more

Bubble Markers

My Friday-The-13th modicum this week is on finance – specifically, how to profit from the stock buy back obsession in corporate America.

Financial bubbles by definition occur when rational processes break down, and runaway irrationality takes hold. You’d think we’d get better at this stuff as society ages and technology improves, but we aren’t. We just wrap the irrationality with layers and layers of complexity that just better hides it from a rational thought. Credit default swaps anyone?

It’s a fascinating concept, the idea of the mind wrapping irrational action with layers of complexity to hide its chaoticness. It’s like the lengthy stories patients with phantom limbs go through to justify why they are not able to manipulate the world with their rationally missing limb. Economic bubbles are a groupthink version of this.

Read more

Get Out the Ark Again

Preface: This week I finish out the trilogy of posts pondering the nature of intelligence and evolution. You already know that I am pondering that intelligence is an aberration and not the apex of evolution. But what if we went one step further and posit that evolution is anti-intelligence, and not just vice versa? And I promise falsely that it will be the last lengthy one for a while.

I always laugh when someone asks the question “What is the meaning of life?” The answer is easy.

Read more

Missing Life’s End Game

I continue this week with part two of the questions for evidence of runaway intelligence. Last week I was focused on why runaway intelligence happened – particularly, why didn’t it happen for hundreds of millions of years. This week I ponder more on why we do not see more evidence of it elsewhere.

Read more

Runaway Intelligence Spark

Going back to world of science this week and the next, I’ve been revisiting what are the two biggest mysteries in life to me (drawing a bit on the previous modicum on Drake’s Equation).

  1. Why did human-level intelligence take so long to evolve?
  2. Why do we not see evidence of runaway intelligence in the visible universe?

The reason why I like these two questions are they are pretty fundamental questions on life in existence. But at the same time, they are logical questions that should have some fairly defensible scientific solutions to resolve them – but are heretofore unanswered. We should and hopefully one day will know the answers – unlike so many other bold why questions just a step further from these two that will ultimately be unanswerable. As such, they are the biggest low hanging fruit out there for science to pursue – if I had nine lives, this would be two of those lives.

Read more

The Premise of a Big Goal

We all know that tasks fill the void of time and energy based on the allotment given to them. I also have argued that many of modern society’s ills are caused by the fact that we now have too much truly discretionary time in our lives. That combination presents a powerful death spiral to frenetic mundanity, i.e. the curse of the soccer parent. There is many a day when I seem to have a front seat (admittedly driver side) view of that spiral. But painfully and thankfully, my fellow soccer moms’ insistence that “it’s for the kids, your most important creation, so don’t worry” has limited staying power in my battle against comfortable numbness.

So what are the tricks for getting off the freeway to mediocrity? That could be a long list, and is the topic of many of my posts. But for this week, I have really been thinking about the concept of having a Big Goal (think, like hiking the PCT), with the capitalization being of utmost importance to the concept.

Read more

Mirror, Mirror

I  am not sure I even had the choice this week as to what thought would be most prevalent in my mind because throughout this week, the same word keeps hitting me over the head. The word is mirroring – specifically the tool in which one person mirrors the actions or thoughts of another.

Read more

The lies we tell ourselves…

First please bear with a prefatory rant to help set the context.

I’ve always struggled with Halloween, and each year it gets worse. I enjoy embracing the Latin world’s Day of the Dead to remind us of deaths clutches waiting right around the corner; it’s a healthy reminder that is celebrated in a way that is not morbid and yet still respectful. But Halloween… it touches upon all the things I don’t like – dressing up to be something you are not, asking/demanding candy, commercialization. A silver lining is that you get out of your house and is the one chance to meet your neighbors – but then under the cloak of darkness and the falsehood of costume. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of pageantry and tradition, just not falsehood.

Read more