Justin Li

Links for September 2014


I'm starting a new thing where I post interesting articles that I've read every month. This emulates what Scott Alexander does on Slate Star Codex. It will also be fun to reflect on the assortment of things that I've read; as Elodin from Kingkiller Chronicles would say, "Small facts lead to great knowing". Also, my book-reading pace has slowed considerably in the last couple months.

(Aside: A lot of links this month are from previous Slate Star Codex link posts, since I was procrastinating by going through them. I will be more original next month.)

Starting with Slate Star Codex itself, Scott Alexander talks a specific form of reductio ad absurdum: proving too much. This is when you make an argument that does prove your point, but also proves some other absurd thing; I've made the case that, for example, some definitions of objectification do this.

Speaking of tools for thinking, The Rationalist Conspiracy discusses how San Francisco blames its problems on the tech community. I don't know if there's a name for this fallacy, but I think of it as failing to see what's not there.

On the other hand, being too rational is often a bad thing, particularly when it comes to what people consider emotional things. A lesson to be learned for robots. And for dating sites.

In addition to my trouble with objectification, I also have trouble understanding the boundaries of "cultural appropriation".

A. O. Scott argues that our "forever young" desires is reflected in the media, and that something is lost because of it. I agree; childhood, while fun and playful, is also impulsive and lacks seriousness and introspection.

This may be why Hong Kong is rioting. I understand the freedoms at stake, but I'm also not sure if barricading the subway is the right response.

I am slowly becoming the senior grad student in the lab. It happens to everyone, and like everyone else, it has sneaked up on me.

Life in academia may not be as free as people think it is.

In other news, we now have a computational definition of "galactic supercluster". And it's breathtaking.

And finally, I though ground radar would have discovered all overgrown forest ruins by now. Apparently that's not the case.