"Pre-Galilean" Foolishness

 I am currently reading The Master and His Emissary , which appears to be an excellent book. ("Appears" because I don't know the neuroscience literature well enough to say for sure, yet.) But then on page 186 I find: "Asking cognition, however, to give a perspective on the relationship between cognition and affect is like asking astronomer in the pre-Galilean geocentric world, whether, in his opinion, the sun moves round the earth of the earth around the sun. To ask a question alone would be enough to label one as mad." OK, this is garbage. First of all, it should be pre-Copernican, not pre-Galilean. But much worse is that people have seriously been considering heliocentrism for many centuries before Copernicus. Aristarchus had proposed a heliocentric model in the 4th-century BC. It had generally been considered wrong, but not "mad." (And wrong for scientific reasons: Why, for instance, did we not observe stellar parallax?) And when Copernicus propose

"Machine Learning"

 The name is a misnomer. And a harmful one, because it interferes with understanding the process that is really occuring. What is really occurring is a search of a constrained program space. Let's say you want to be able to identify images of hot dogs . You begin with a plausible program for doing so, that is able to also search the space of nearby programs that might get better results on the problem. You then (in "supervised learning") provide scores that indicate how well one of these possible programs has done on solving the problem. After doing this for some time you settle upon a program that solves the problem "well enough." This is a great technique that can produce truly impressive results on a wide class of problems, such as identifying images of hot dogs. But notice that, except for the phrase in scare quotes, there is no "learning" in the description. Calling this "learning" is importing ideological baggage that just obscures what

Misunderstanding dynamical systems

I once argued with a woman online — can you imagine? Me, arguing online! — Who claimed that global warming couldn’t possibly be due to human activity, because of the small amount of CO2 our activities release compared to the total in the atmosphere.  So I slipped her 500 µg of LSD, and said “Let’s see what small amounts of a chemical can really do!” Ha ha! It was online, so I could not do that. But imagine if she had never encountered ice but only water between 100°F and 32.5°F. I’m sure if I tried to explain to her that the next drop of 1° would make a huge difference, she would scoff, and say “No, the water is just going to get a little more dense and a little more sluggish.” Dynamical systems experience phase transitions, where a small move past some point throws the system into a whole new form of behavior. 

"It Tastes like Sawdust"

I recalled reading a mildly right-of-center pundit offering a recipe. When it came to the seasoning, her recipe called for pepper, and she made a point of saying "Freshly ground only! Pre-ground pepper tastes like sawdust!" Of course, pre-ground pepper doesn't taste anything like sawdust. It taste pretty much like freshly ground pepper, only not quite as pungent. So why would she say this? The remark makes perfect sense if you understand it, not as her report on what pre-ground pepper tastes like to her, but as an expression of class solidarity. "Hey, I may be slightly right-of-center... but I, also, am the sort of person who would never use pre-ground pepper!"

It's Good in and of Itself!

Business Insider ranks countries on health . One of the "plus" factors is you get more points the more the government spends on health care. What the hey? If that spending is effective, shouldn't it show up in some other health stat ? And if it doesn't... why is it a positive factor?

BZ: Don't ask me questions in the comments!

As I mentioned, for some messed up Google reason, I am unable to comment on my own blog. And no, I absolutely do NOT wish to spend any more time addressing Block's ridiculous misinterpretations of what I wrote.

BZ: My response to Block

 Apparently, I can't comment at my own blog! I kept trying to post this but it never shows up. So  here is my response  to Block.