Philosophers

I want a third pill [as in The Matrix red/blue pill]. So what is the third pill? Definitely not some kind of transcendental pill which enables a fake fast food religious experience but a pill that would enable me to perceive not the reality behind the illusion but the reality in illusion itself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpJYZtoJCUA#t=4m24s

Slavoj Žižek


We get off on the rules. It's not about freeing ourselves from the rules, it's about the rules becoming their own source of enjoyment that can be perversely put into the polity of society.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6x5oqh7aQw#t=2m59s

Michael S Roth in a section about Slavoj Žižek


What is the value of Žižek's work? He's asking "what can we possibly mean by what we're doing"? Why are we asking the questions we're asking? Why are we framing the world as we frame it? The philosopher is not there to evade catastrophe.

Philosophy does not solve problems.

Žižek: "What is philosophy? Philosophy is not some crazy activity in absolute truth, which we all know is inaccessible. For example, philosophy treats the topic of freedom by asking a simple question: 'What does it mean to be free?' Not, 'what is freedom?' or 'can you be free?' - philosophy does not deal with hermeneutic questions. They don't answer questions, they throw them back, reframe the world, become aware of the frames that already exist."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6x5oqh7aQw#t=13m00s

Michael S Roth in a section about Slavoj Žižek


You can do what you want so long as it doesn't hurt someone else.

Suppose that all your objects in life were realized... would this be a joy and happiness to you? And an irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered 'No!' At this my heart sank within me; the whole foundation on which my life was constructed fell down.

These people [romantics] know about life! They don't say 'oh you should you know flip a coin or take a class [and engage more utility in order to get more pleasure]'. These people actually explore their experience of sadness as a way of deepening their lives and creating art.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpVStpJlHEg#t=7m20s

Michael S Roth in a section about John Stuart Mill (7m as a bit of contextual introduction to Charles Darwin)


I never, indeed, wavered in the conviction that happiness is the test of all rules of conduct, and the end of life. But I now thought that this end was only to be attained by not making it the direct end. Those only are happy (I thought) who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way. ... Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so. The only chance is to treat, not happiness, but some end external to it, as the purpose of life. Let your self-consciousness, your scrutiny, your self-interrogation, exhaust themselves on that; and if otherwise fortunately circumstanced you will inhale happiness with the air you breathe, without dwelling on it. This theory now became the basis of my philosophy of life.

John Stuart Mill - Autobiography p74


The maintenance of a due balance among the faculties now seemed to be of primary importance. The cultivation of the feelings became one of the cardinal points in my ethical and philosophical creed.

John Stuart Mill - Autobiography p75


"How can we help poor people move out of extreme poverty?" One seemingly obvious way is the approach of GiveDirectly: Unconditional Cash Transfers, aka just give people money, trusting that poor people know more about their own needs than donors and development specialists from far away.

GiveDirectly


Programmers

There is no single, standardized statement of the Unix philosophy, but perhaps the simplest description would be: "Write programs that are small, simple and transparent. Write them so that they do only one thing, but do it well and can work together with other programs." That is, the philosophy centers around the concepts of smallness, simplicity, modularity, craftsmanship, transparency, economy, diversity, portability, flexibility and extensibility.

... well-behaved programs should treat their users' attention and concentration as being valuable and thus perform their tasks as unobtrusively as possible.

http://www.linfo.org/rule_of_silence.html

The Linux Information Project


Most things done by most people today [on the internet] are still "automating paper, records and film" rather than "simulating the future"

http://mythz.servicestack.net/blog/2013/02/27/the-deep-insights-of-alan-kay/

Alan Kay


What Andy giveth, Bill taketh away [Refering to Andy Grove the then CEO of Intel and Bill Gates of Microsoft, where software engineering is progressing inversely to Moore’s Law which sees hardware capacity increasing each year whilst software becoming un-necessarily bloated.]

http://mythz.servicestack.net/blog/2013/02/27/the-deep-insights-of-alan-kay/

Alan Kay


The Internet was done so well that most people think of it as a natural resource like the Pacific Ocean, rather than something that was man-made. When was the last time a technology with a scale like that was so error-free? The Web, in comparison, is a joke. The Web was done by amateurs.

http://mythz.servicestack.net/blog/2013/02/27/the-deep-insights-of-alan-kay/

Alan Kay


I thought of objects being like biological cells and/or individual computers on a network, only able to communicate with messages [related to Object Oriented Programming]

http://mythz.servicestack.net/blog/2013/02/27/the-deep-insights-of-alan-kay/

Alan Kay


The big idea is “messaging”

http://mythz.servicestack.net/blog/2013/02/27/the-deep-insights-of-alan-kay/

Alan Kay


The key in making great and growable systems is much more to design how its modules communicate rather than what their internal properties and behaviors should be.

http://mythz.servicestack.net/blog/2013/02/27/the-deep-insights-of-alan-kay/

Alan Kay


[One of the goals was to change how children were traditionally educated where instead of dispensing them with facts, to instead encourage them to observe real-world behavior for themselves and get teachers to think of children as thinking beings in their own right] rather than as “defective adults who have to be fixed by education”

http://mythz.servicestack.net/blog/2013/02/27/the-deep-insights-of-alan-kay/

Alan Kay


"I don't know what a business is," Musk told Urban. "All a company is is a bunch of people together to create a product or service. There's no such thing as a business, just pursuit of a goal — a group of people pursuing a goal."

http://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musk-says-theres-no-such-thing-as-a-business-2015-9

Elon Musk about Business


every­thing else that [programmers] do, really has nothing to do with [science / algorithms / etc]. It’s about social interactions between the programmers or even between your­self spread over time.

https://blogs.uw.edu/ajko/2012/08/22/john-carmack-discusses-the-art-and-science-of-software-engineering/

John Carmak


Better and Perfect are the enemies of What-Is-Actually-Needed

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11939851

Alan Kay


"Hunters and gatherers" (our genetic heritage) find fertile valleys, strip them dry and move on (this only works on a very small scale). "Civilization" is partly about learning how to overcome our dangerous atavistic tendencies through education and planning.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11939851

Alan Kay


The basic heuristic here is to avoid the "when you criticize something you are implicitly buying into it's very existence!". First try to see if there is anything worth existing!

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11939851

Alan Kay


I’m genuinely concerned that the way Ethereum is handling the DAO hack is setting a precedent that decentralized systems should be managed with the same kind of human interventions seen in centralized systems. I didn’t get involved in Bitcoin to make an inefficient PayPal clone - I got involved to give users the choice to use a system based on something different, a choice they didn’t have before. And I don’t want to be a target for people trying to make those interventions happen.

https://petertodd.org/2016/ethereum-dao-bailout-vote

Peter Todd


Q: Do you feel some of the smartest and the brightest researchers and technology brains today, are solving problems that don’t matter? Contrasting what we are seeing now with the kind of team you had at the legendary PARC.

A: Value judgements require a value system.

If the prevailing values have to do with simply making money then what is going on now “matters”. If we think that the human race in our age of great powers needs great wisdom that exceeds the powers, then most money-making goals will miss what is needed, and much of what is being done “doesn’t matter”.

http://factordaily.com/alan-kay-apple-steve-jobs/

Alan Kay


When trying to understand a new [complex mathematical] thing, you automatically focus on very simple examples that are easy to think about, and then you leverage intuition about the examples into more impressive insights. [This is basically what hacking is]

https://www.quora.com/What-is-it-like-to-understand-advanced-mathematics/answers/873950?srid=p6KQ&share=1

Anonymous


The Internet needs to get much weirder. People out there are tired of deep-fried data, too, and want substance. They'll do interesting things. But you have to trust them.

http://idlewords.com/talks/deep_fried_data.htm

Maciej Ceglowski


don’t pretend you are the sole arbiter of what your data is for. You aren't!

http://idlewords.com/talks/deep_fried_data.htm

Maciej Ceglowski


Typically an existing practice is only overturned by the loudest, most persuasive, most energetic voices. And they have to be. Humans don't come to the middle by being shown the middle. They come to the middle after being shown the other fringe.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12718270

jacques_chester


As a coach, you will tell trainees a series of increasingly accurate lies

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12718270

jacques_chester


I tend to see this [premature abstraction] when people try to pre-emptively abstract. Not "we seem to be duplicating 3+ blocks of code here" but "we might want to do this again at some point so we need an abstraction to make it easier next time".

The former almost always works while the latter almost always fails.

The former gives a little dopamine hit and a boost to the ego because that's being "an architect" while the latter feels more like being a janitor. Ironic really.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12718270

crdoconnor


Basically, it all comes down to feedback. The more quickly you can get feedback, the less change you need to get back on target.

http://www.artima.com/intv/tracer.html

Dave Thomas


It should be noted that no ethically-trained software engineer would ever consent to write a DestroyBaghdad procedure. Basic professional ethics would instead require him to write a DestroyCity procedure, to which Baghdad could be given as a parameter.

https://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/5d56fo/the_code_im_still_ashamed_of/

Nathaniel S. Borenstein


50 years from now, I think it will seem ridiculous that we used fear of not being able to eat as a way to motivate people.

http://blog.ycombinator.com/basic-income/

Sam Altman, justifying Basic Income


Any user research will involve interacting with users, but it's not to gather their opinions, which is almost always irrelevant, but to document their behavior, needs and drives.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13307040

fnordsensei


Authors

My Life On The Road - Gloria Steinem

decisions are best made by the people affected by them.


How Much Is Enough - Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky

Not quotes, these are my notes.

Euzen - an ancient Greek expression. Aristoteles explained the meaning of Euzen to be the path to the good life and that the good life is to fulfil your true nature. It is the only thing of which it makes no sense to ask "What is it for?"


Liberal used to be 'tolerance' but now it is 'neutral'. The old meaning was better, it had ethical virtue. Tolerance does not rule out public preference; it insists only that rivals be treated with consideration and respect.


Capital in the Twenty-First Century - Thomas Piketty

My notes included after page references.

Inequality is not necessarily bad in itself: the key question is to decide whether it is justified, whether there are reasons for it

p27

This is a very important point - there will always be some inequality because not all people are equal. We need to decide how much inequality (min and max) and find the political / economic mechanisms to achieve that. I think this can only work if there is a pre-existing and enforced minimum standard of living.


The history of inequality is shaped by the way economic, social, and political actors view what is just and what is not, as well as by the relative power of those actors and the collective choices that result.

p29

I feel we are poorly represented, and this is mostly due to the incentive structures in our political system.


Knowledge and skill diffusion is the key to overall productivity growth as well as the reduction of inequality both within and between countries.

p29


When the rate of return on capital (r) significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy (g) (as it did through much of history until the nineteenth century and as is likely to be the case again in the twenty-first century), then it logically follows that inherited wealth grows faster than output and income.

p34

Regarding divergence that leads to capital inequality: if rich people spent more money, wouldn’t that be a good way to distribute capital and regain equality? Or is the amount of accumulated wealth simply too much that ‘it can’t be spent’? I feel like ‘rich people spending’ is a viable solution to this problem (of course not necessarily spending on consumer goods, but likely to be on goods that contribute to ‘the growth rate of the economy’ - see note for p159). Sounds like a tax where the user chooses where the money goes instead of the government.


capital is defined as the sum total of nonhuman assets that can be owned and exchanged on some market.

p51


The main purpose of part 2 is to understand how and why the capital/income ratio varies from country to country

p57

I’m still not sure why this ratio is important. Maybe it will become apparent as I proceed.

Ah, on p 148

[capital/income is] the ratio that measures the overall importance of capital in the economy and society


Economic development begins with the diversification of ways of life and types of goods and services produced and consumed. It is thus a multidimensional process whose very nature makes it impossible to sum up properly with a single monetary index.

p84

This point highlights another consideration - is economics (especially growth and inequality) the best way to measure, evaluate and develop ‘what people want’ / ‘being able to live a good life’? As Bill Gates says of this book, the omission of consumption data is glaring.


The key point is that regardless of the exact dates and growth rates (of demographic and economic growth) the two bell curves of global growth are in large part already determined.

p98

I disagree. What about the possible (likely?) advent of extreme efficiency (and thus growth) via AI? Why is a growth rate of 4% high, just because growth in the past was 0.1-2%? Why won’t growth continue to follow the trend toward increasing? I realize there are physical upper limits on the planet’s resources, but what’s to say we’re going to remain confined to the resources of the planet? To me, the assumption that growth must slow is not one that I can simply take on face-value, especially in light of the very clear and strong trend toward increasing growth.


The advantage of owning things is that one can continue to consume and accumulate without having to work, or at any rate continue to consume and accumulate more than one could produce on one’s own.

p113

The idea of ‘cumulative output’ and ‘standing on the shoulders of those who came before us’ is really important. Should the work of those who came before us be ‘more valuable’ than the work of the current generation? Not an easy question to answer, but current inflation policy seems to say ‘no’. I am probably inclined to agree, but know that a non-inflating or even deflationary policy is more desirable for those currently in possession of capital, and should (in theory) motivate others to seek capital (rather than debt). Tough to know what side of the money policy to stand on in this respect.


durable goods [cars, furniture etc] have always represented a relatively small portion of total wealth, which has not varied much over time

In other words, everyone owns on average between a third and half a year’s income worth of furniture, refrigerators, cars, and so on

p159


wealth is so concentrated that a large segment of society is virtually unaware of its existence, so that some people imagine that it belongs to surreal or mysterious entities.

p225


Housing is the favourite investment of the middle class and moderately well-to-do, but true wealth always consists primarily of financial and business assets.

p225


we have gone from a society of rentiers to a society of managers, that is, from a society in which the top centile is dominated by rentiers (people who own enough capital to live on the annual income from their wealth) to a society in which the top of the income hierarchy, including the upper centile, consist mainly of highly paid individuals who live on income from labour.

p240

This is a positive thing. It’s much easier to legislate for lower salaries to executives than it is to legislate for taxation of existing capital from the rich. Or perhaps, it’s easier to be outraged by disproportionate salaries than it is about disproportionate (usually hidden) wealth. This works, as previous experience shows us on p259 - “An important role [in wage compression] was played by the National War Labor Board, the government agency that had to approve all wage increases in the United States from 1941 to 1945 and generally approved raises only for the lowest paid workers. In particular, managers’ salaries were systematically frozen”


Inflation is a tax on the idle rich, or, more precisely, on wealth that is not invested.

p389

Invest your wealth! Cash is definitely not king.


Immigration is the mortar that holds the United States together, the stabilizing force that prevents accumulated capital from acquiring the importance it has in Europe; it is also the force that makes the increasingly large inequalities of labor income in the United States politically and socially bearable.

p471

Immigration is really interesting.


A History of Western Philosophy - Bertrand Russell

The civilized man is distinguished from savage man by prudence, or, to use a slightly wider term, forethought. He is willing to ensure present pains for the sake of future pleasures, even if the future pleasures are rather distant.

p33


Much of what is greatest in human achievement involves some element of intoxication, some sweeping away of prudence by passion.

p33


The concept of potentiality is convenient in some connections, provided it is so used that we can translate our statements into a form in which the concept is absent. “A block of marble is a potential statue” means “from a block of marble, by suitable acts, a statue is produced.” [note the word 'potential' is entirely absent from the second phrase]. But when potentiality is used as a fundamental and irreducible concept, it always conceals confusion of thought. Aristotle's use of it is one of the bad points in his system.

p167


The greatest crimes are due to excess rather than want; no man becomes a tyrant in order to avoid feeling cold.

p186


The three things needed to prevent revolution are government propaganda in education, respect for law, even in small things, and justice in law and administration.

p187


All social inequality, in the long run, is inequality of income.

p187


The platonic Socrates professes to know nothing; we naturally treat this as irony, but it could be taken seriously. Many of the dialogues reach no positive conclusion, and aim at leaving the reader in a state of doubt. Some - the latter half of Parmenides, for instance - might seem to have no purpose except to show that either side of any question can be maintained with equal plausibility.

p227


The philosophy of Epicurus, like all those of his age [300 BC] (with the partial exception of Scepticism), was primarily designed to secure tranquility.

p234


[Epicurus] is thus led, in practice, to regarding absence of pain, rather than presence of pleasure, as the wise man's goal.

p235


To the end Rome was culturally parasitic on Greece. The Romans invented no art forms, constructed no original system of philosophy, and made no scientific discoveries. They made good roads, systematic legal codes, and efficient armies; for the rest they looked to Greece.

p268


Aristotle's reputation is mainly due to them [the Arabs of the seventh century]; in antiquity, he was seldom mentioned, and was not regarded as on a level with Plato.

p273


It is strange that the last men of intellectual eminence before the dark ages [the Catholics] were concerned, not with saving civilization or expelling the barbarians or reforming the abuses of the administration, but with preaching the merit of virginity and the damnation of unbaptized infants.

p348


The year 1000 may be conveniently taken as marking the end of the lowest depth to which the civilization of Western Europe sank. From this point the upward movement began which continued until 1914.

p378


Our use of the phrase the "Dark Ages" to cover the period from 600 to 1000 marks our undue concentration on Western Europe. In China, this period includes the time of the Tang dynasty, the greatest age of Chinese poetry, and in many other ways a most remarkable epoch. From India to Spain, the brilliant civilization of Islam flourished. No one could have guessed that Western Europe would later become dominant, both in power and in culture.

p379


I think that, if we are to feel at home in the world after the present war [WWII], we shall have to admit Asia to equality in our thoughts, not only politically, but culturally. What changes this will bring about, I do not know, but I am convinced that they will be profound and of the greatest importance.

p379


a plant is like God in being alive, but unlike in not having knowledge; an animal is like God in having knowledge, but unlike in not having intellect. It is always by a negation that a creature differs from God.

p428

This quote reminds me of why I prefer to 'remove badness only by adding goodness', eg don't remove some bad thing from the world, replace the bad thing by a better alternative. We are best able to improve the situation of ourselves and others by exploring new ways, not by reverting to a previous state.


The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance [as done by Saint Thomas Aquinas] is not philosophy, but special pleading.

p434


We must, he [Matthew of Aquasparta] says, find a middle way between Plato and Aristotle. Plato's ideas are "utterly erroneous"; they establish wisdom, but not knowledge. On the other hand, Aristotle is also wrong; he establishes knowledge, but not wisdom.

p437


By insisting on the possibility of studying logic and human knowledge without reference to metaphysics and theology, Occam's work encouraged scientific research.

p444


Locke, whose temperament is thoroughly objective, is forced reluctantly into the subjective doctrine that knowledge is the agreement or disagreement of ideas

p460


it is not what the man of science believes that distinguishes him [from theological philosophers], but how and why he believes it.

p490


As a rule, the framing of hypotheses is the most difficult part of scientific work, and the part where great ability is indispensable.

p506


The covenant [of government, as described by Hobbes in Leviathan] is not between the citizens and the ruling power; it is a covenant made by the citizens with each other to obey such ruling power as the majority shall choose.

p512


There is in Descartes an unresolved dualism between what he learnt from contemporary science and the scholasticism that he had been taught at La Flèche. This led him into inconsistencies, but it also made him more rich in fruitful ideas than any completely logical philosopher could have been. Consistency might have made him merely the founder of a new scholasticism, whereas inconsistency made him the source of two important but divergent schools of philosophy.

p529


The God of the Old Testament is a God of power, the God of the New Testament is also a God of love; but the God of the theologians, from Aristotle to Calvin, is one whose appeal is intellectual: His existence solves certain puzzles which otherwise would create argumentative difficulties in the understanding of the universe. This Deity who appears at the end of a piece of reasoning, like the proof of a proposition in geometry, did not satisfy Rousseau, who reverted to a conception of God more akin to that of the Gospels.

p544


As a rule, the man who first thinks of a new idea is so much ahead of his time that every one thinks him silly, so that he remains obscure and is soon forgotten.

p578


The nearest thing to a definition of the state of nature to be found in Locke is the following: "Men living together according to reason, without a common superior on earth, with authority to judge between them, is properly the state of nature." This is not a description of the life of savages but of an imagined community of virtuous anarchists, who need no police or law-courts because they always obey "reason", which is the same as "natural law"

p579


The men who did most to promote human happiness were - as might have been expected - those who thought happiness important, not those who despised it in comparison with something more 'sublime'.

p596


Locke, as we saw, is tentative in his beliefs, not at all authoritarian, and willing to leave every question to be decided by free discussion. The result, both in his case and in that of his followers, was a belief in reform, but of a gradual sort.

p596

Sounds to me a bit like git - 'of a gradual sort'


The great political defect of Locke and his disciples, from a modern point of view, was their worship of property.

p596


[Hume says] all our reasonings concerning causes and effects are derived from nothing but custom; and a belief is more properly an act of the sensitive, than of the cogitative part of our natures.

p619


[Locke says] Knowledge is the perception of the agreement or disagreement of two ideas.

p645


[Kant says] though everything in nature acts according to laws, only a rational being has the power of acting according to the idea of a law, ie by Will.

p653


Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education.

p663

Brutal assessment of the education system. I don't agree with respect to education itself.


The motive force of evolution, according to him [Darwin], is a kind of biological economics in a world of free competition. It was Malthus's doctrine of population, extended to the world of animals and plants, that suggested to Darwin the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest as the source of evolution.

p666


To frame a philosophy capable of coping with men intoxicated with the prospect of almost unlimited power and also with the apathy of the powerless is the most pressing task of our time.

p669


[In commentary of Hegel's intellectualized mysticism] It is odd that a process which is represented as cosmic should all have taken place on our planet, and most if it near the Mediterranean.

p675


Hegel thought that, if enough was known about a thing to distinguish it from all other things, then all its properties could be inferred by logic. This was a mistake, and from this mistake arose the whole imposing edifice of his system. This illustrates an important truth, namely, that the worse your logic, the more interesting the consequences to which it gives rise.

p684

To me this is a great description of why mysticism and pseudo-science is popular.


Bentham held not only that the good is happiness in general, but also that each individual always pursues what he believes to be his own happiness. The business of the legislator, therefore, is to produce harmony between public and private interests.

p709


The politics, religion, philosophy, and art of any epoch in human history are, according to Marx, an outcome of its methods of production, and, to a lesser extent, of distribution.

p718


Bergson's argument against the mathematical view of motion, therefore, reduces itself, in the last analysis, to a mere play upon words.

p738


The sceptic, says [William] James, is afraid of being duped, and through his fear may lose important truth; "what proof is there," he adds, "that dupery through hope is so much worse than dupery through fear?"

p747


there is almost always some discoverable consideration of probability in regard to any question.

p747


[William] James, in elucidation, says that the function of philosophy is to find out what difference it makes to you or me if this or that world-formula is true. In this way theories become instruments, not answers to enigmas.

p748


In Praise Of Idleness - Bertrand Russell

But without a considerable amount of leisure a man is cut off from many of the best things.

Academic institutions, therefore, useful as they are, are not adequate guardians of the interests of civilisation in a world where everyone outside their walls is too busy for unutilitarian pursuits.

The above quotes are interesting to me because they lend themselves to some unanswered but important questions:

Perhaps an attempt to address this is given near the end of the essay:

Above all, there will be happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia. The work exacted will be enough to make leisure delightful, but not enough to produce exhaustion. Since men will not be tired in their spare time, they will not demand only such amusements as are passive and vapid.

Good nature is, of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and a good nature is the result of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle.