Weekend Reading CXIX

by uber

Tumour Memories

Every encounter I experience directly or indirectly with medicine reminds me of how hard it seems to be just to get a moderately clear picture of what the patient’s complaint is. Are the little pains, clicks, pops, spasms and episodes of fatigue just the normal result of an active life, or a sign of something sinister? Add to that the fear or shame of admitting serious issues that have been dwelling for a long time, and it becomes a truly epic task.


The Daily Overview


Esquire has a cold: How the magazine is mining its archives with the launch of Esquire Classics

The selection and promotion of these articles is themselves fascinating, and reflects as much about what is important now as what was (or was not) significant then.


Legal implications of an encounter with extraterrestrial intelligence

Considering the challenges we face even conversing with our own kind, let alone those we share a planet with, it’s hard
to imagine what an alien encounter would resemble. Science fiction has contemplated numerous scenarios, but all really as analogies for the time. How do we write the tale for the time that truly has never been?


Frantzen Reviews Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation

“The mother of excess is not joy but joylessness.”

So wrote Friedrich Nietzche. From the review, it strikes me that this is another book which accurately describes a problem, but suggests an unrealistic solution. What would intentional interfaces look like? There are powerful structural forces at work in the reward centres of our brains. We’re not good at freeing ourselves from reward traps; we’re even worse at freeing each other. Yes, it’s probably sensible to limit use of technologies, but that’s not a lesson about technology, it’s yet another lesson about moderation. Frankly, there’s an excess of that kind of advice about.


The story of a shy academic

Lectures have had to evolve to remain useful in a world of even more accessible content. I still error many post-college auto-didacts are wrong to assert that the traditional model is dead.What and How information is disseminated can be improved, but people forget that they need to lean how to learn. The purpose of the lecture is to filter the ever-increasing number of potential sources, (dis-)reputable, contradictory, (out-)dated, and present the synthesis of the topic. More importantly, it is another block in teaching students to understand, at a structural and organisational level, how to learn something. This is also why I still thing both formative and summative assessments are vital: you can “know” a topic, you can be aware of it, or you can (exam) know a topic. Building awareness of the different levels requires structure for most people. This is even more true in young adults, who need to transition towards cognitive independence from “schooling”.


My belief that the value of a degree is as much in how as what is taught means I generally don’t have much sympathy for a utilitarian perspective on degrees: candidates make the value from the topic, and from the learning experience. A First in Classics is far more valuable than a second in Chemistry in some circumstances. I regret very much the news from Japan of Ministerial Intervention to reduce Humanities education.

Praising Xi Jinping

international students in Beijing”, define sampling bias.

Iceland’s recovery: myths and reality (or sound basics, decent policies, luck and no miracle)

I thought this paragraph was most significant:

However, the worrying aspect is that in addition to fisheries partly based on cheap foreign labour the new big sector, tourism, is the same. Notoriously low productivity – a chronic Icelandic ill – will not be improved by low-paid foreign labour. Well-educated and skilled Icelanders are moving abroad whereas foreigners moving to the country have fewer skills. Worryingly, there is little political focus on this.

Low-productivity recoveries seem the order of the day across Europe, which can only amount to another time-bomb.


NZ Flag Referendum pseudorandom numbers

This seems at face value a bad way to write legislation. Embedding technical mathematical details of complex numbers here, rather than in an enabling instrument, would certainly make them harder to correct for technical errors. The whole flag choice aspect is somewhat odd: the NZ government has first decided to ask what flag people like, then will ask if they want it to replace the existing one. I guess the Prime Minister sees that as a way of getting what he wants. Choices like that structure are always for a particular purpose.